Thursday, July 23, 2009

Post No. 127b: Re-Posting of Post No. 122: You Don’t Get Old by Being No Fool


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Last week, a prominent black professor at Harvard was arrested by local police while trying to gain entry to his own home, when he had difficulty opening what he claimed to be a jammed door. Someone in the vicinity at the time, who apparently did not realize that the professor lived there, called the police.

After the arrival of the police, the stories become very confused and distorted.

However, no matter what happened, it is clear that Professor Gates had not read one of our old posts, re-printed below for your enjoyment. If he had, this, which some consider “newsworthy” event, probably would not have occurred. In the interest of minimizing the occurrence of such events in the future, we offer the following:


Sometimes we draw our inspiration from movies. Last week, TCM aired a musical comedy with Fred Astaire.

Astaire plays a popular dancer pursued by female fans. He employs subterfuge and fleet of foot to escape the crowd. He sneaks into a cab and thinks that he has pulled it off.

To his surprise, Joan Fontaine, a member of nobility whose family expects her to announce who she will marry any day, scurries into the cab. She’s trying to avoid being caught by the family’s Chief Steward. They desire that she marry a boy from another noble family; but she’s in love with a city boy.

While trying to enter the cab to retrieve her, the steward gets into a fight with Astaire. A London Bobby arrives and decides to arrest both. Astaire wiggles out by participating in a street dance routine performed by someone imitating him. The Bobby is so taken with his performance that Astaire is able to fade into the crowd.

For those incapable of “dancing out of danger,” the world’s a more serious and dangerous place, for the Police and the populace.

In the 60’s, we were a bit more innocent. Vietnam took care of that. Some say Nixon ended the war upon realizing we were pulling a disproportionate number of poor kids from the projects, training them as guerrilla fighters, and dumping them back into the ghetto… a practice any one could have seen would not end well.

Take a group of radicalized middle class college students occasionally bombing or occupying government buildings, toss in a few government scandals and VP Cheney’s take on our constitutional rights, and you have a recipe for paranoia… on both sides of the badge.

Running down “bad guys” is now a national obsession, and something of which America seems to be proud.

Police car chases are so popular that stations interrupt any broadcast, repeat, any broadcast, to provide updates. There’s even a website devoted to freeway pursuits.

Our target audience for our Common Sense and Personal Responsibility seminars is college students. There’s a high probability that they will, at some point during their educational experience, have an encounter with the law.

(The O.J. “cruise” with Al Cowlings highlighted a couple of Common Sense differences between your run of the mill teenager, and a seriously skilled dancer. O.J. never threatened anybody other than himself, and he kept his speed below the posted limit.)

Here are some things students might want to consider:

One:

If you’re afraid of the Police, or feel some urge to call them dirty names, drive someplace with lots of people (with camera phones) before you pull over. The Police are well aware of the consequences of beating on you in public while being recorded.

Two
:

Comedian Chris Rock has a funny piece about talking to the Police when stopped. His advice will get you arrested.

The Police don’t know who you or your Daddy are, they don’t wear body armor to fill out an over-sized uniform, and you may never get a second chance to make a good first impression. (Just ask Sir Charles Barkley.)

Be cooperative; and cognizant of the 25 or so pounds of weaponry he or she carries around all day, every day, along with the steel toe, shiny boots, and be contrite.

Three:

DUIs, drugs, and traffic offenses have become major sources of income for many of our local constabulary, particularly during this economic meltdown. Their income and equipment depend largely on muck-ups, and the number of tickets and convictions they are able to amass.

Keep in mind that management consultants have infiltrated police departments across the land. Law enforcement is now a business, along with prisons. Line up a lawyer and assemble a bail fund in advance if you want to sport your own haircut and flashy set of wheels.

Four:

Leave the party favors at home. If you need to transport the stuff, consider FedEx. If you insist on driving zapped, so you will be. Best thing to do is keep cab fare in reserve, providing you the ability to impress your chosen companion, and get things going early.

Last week, we ran across an article reflecting how things can go bad in an instant. Sixteen year old Robert Mitchell was a passenger in his cousin’s car. Police stopped the vehicle for an expired license plate. Mitchell, a learning disabled boy with a clean record, jumped out of the car. His cousin said he was absolutely freaked and starting sprinting.

The 5’2”, 110 pound kid fled to an abandoned house. Though the Police tried to corner him, he resisted. They responded with their version of non-lethal force, using a 50,000 volt TASER.

Mitchell died shortly thereafter.

One poor choice can chase one for one’s full life, no matter how short. It will undoubtedly also haunt the officers.

Where did it go wrong? What was the first indicator that things were about to spiral?

The Laughingman contends that telling the truth will always set one free. He also maintains that when things go wrong, there are worse things than getting arrested.

22 comments:

  1. You don't get no respect from no uniformed thug by being no reknowned Ph.D.

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  2. Note to self: Get to know my neighbors much better.

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  3. We have three observations about the Harvard professor incident:

    1. We find it interesting that the fact that this was the professor's home was evidently not established early on way before the dispute escalated;

    2. We find it fascinating that the versions of two members of society, who most would ordinarily view as responsible and honest citizens (this obviously does not include politicians), would vary so dramatically from a factual point of view.

    3. Finally, considering that the reading and viewing public were not present at the scene (and thus have no first hand knowledge), and that there is no video tape to our knowledge of the sequence of events and what was said, how so many have formed conclusions, and made assumptions, about who did what and who was wrong.

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  4. Good observations, Inspector. Wise ones, perhaps. But there were some witnesses. Though that will likely turn into more disagreement over who did or said what and who might be lying.

    As a person who was allowed to grow out of the "you fit the description" category (teen in car), I learned a lesson along the way. It is best to be polite, cooperative, and even friendly when dealing with the police. You would be amazed at how many tickets I avoided that way, not to mention arrests. Confrontation, regardless of how right I was at the moment, never had the desired result unless I desired trouble.

    In fact, on my recent journey across the US, I was stopped west of Flagstaff, AZ, by an Arizona State Trooper. It was a bogus stop. I failed to signal my intent to change lanes to the truck behind me... the one that was a half mile back. The real reason was that I fit the profile. Lone driver, out of state plates, late model car with darkly tinted windows, traveling at the speed limit.

    If I had been in the professor's position (and I almost was once), I would have happily cooperated, showed my ID and thanked the officer for his diligence in checking out the report. And why not? After all, it could easily have been a couple of strangers breaking in. And I would like to know that a 911 call from one of my neighbors got a prompt and thorough response.

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  5. Douglas;

    Excluding the brief reference to "witnesses," you pretty much expressed our views about this whole situation.

    As for witnesses, as you are well aware, we're big on being pro-active. We do not get to the witness analysis until way down the line.

    Before the event attracts the attention of the witnesses, and before they appreciate that something has gotten out of hand, there is typically interaction between the two actors constituting Phases 1, 2, or 3, long before the event spins out of control at Phases 8, 9, and 10. (The same analysis applies to most situations for which someone has to apologize, including, but not limited to, driving under the influence, cheating on one's spouse, taking a bribe from a lobbyist, misappropriating funds, and getting or getting someone pregnant.)

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Absolutely, Inspector, the presence of witnesses is rarely prior to the events that are important to the understanding of the incident. As I said, there will be analysis of those witnesses at some point in time and epithets will be tossed, motives questioned (and defended), and so on.

    What I do know about this incident is this:

    Apparently no one disputes that the initial exchange was confrontational.

    That is, the professor apparently was offended by the officer investigating the report of a possible break in.

    This may well have set the tone for the interaction between the two.

    We may often be right but that rarely gives us license.

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  8. Coop:

    We haven't given out a "Comment of the Month" award over the past several months; however, we actually consider this to be the Comment of the Year (at least thus far).

    It's pretty powerful. Last we knew, the individual who called the police was not a "neighbor," but someone who just happened to observe the activity. We'll follow up on that.

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  9. Now that more of us have had an opportunity to actually view and hear both the professor and the policeman involved, have your views on the incident changed from what they were prior to viewing and hearing both of them?

    Are there any additional "facts" of which you are now aware which have changed your views on this incident?

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  10. We managed to locate the "advice" provided by comedian Chris Rock regarding police stops. Click on his name within the text on point number 2 above, and you will see the video.

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  11. I have posted my latest and (hopefully) last account of this incident. In essence, I think all sides are at least somewhat at fault in this incident

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  12. Thanks Natch. It is rare in situations of this type, which escalate and then spin out of control, that only one side is totally at fault. Thanks. We'll check it out.

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  13. Tonight, Sunday, at 10:00 pm EDST, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates will discuss one of his books on C-Span2 Book TV:

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  14. Interesting explanation, or rule of thumb on how to behave around law enforcement officials, but I feel if one isn't guilty then one shouldn't have to memorize the "rules of etiquette when speaking to a police officer". As for Professor Gates, his demeanor and irate behavior placed in handcuffs. The police officer didn't want to be "embarrassed" in front of the growing bystanders, nor was he going to be spoken to as such. But it seems that now, after reviewing the situation, Professor Gates might have been wrongfully arrested.

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  15. We plan to generate a piece, on what the Gates incident may have revealed to us about ourselves, within the next 24 hours.

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  16. Terenceinmonochrome: Thanks much for weighing in and welcome to our forum:

    You wrote (and this is somewhat directed toward an earlier comment by narrator):

    "Interesting explanation, or rule of thumb on how to behave around law enforcement officials, but I feel if one isn't guilty then one shouldn't have to memorize the "rules of etiquette when speaking to a police officer."

    A couple of things.

    First, guilt is in the eye of the beholder or one determining guilt, and reasonable people will differ.

    Second, there's not going to be some fair, due process, impartial determination as to guilt right then and there while the officer is talking to you. It's not going to happen. The person stopped, at least for a few minutes, is operating at a disadvantage. Ask anyone ever stopped in a speed trap going through a small town.

    Third, the whole point of our piece was to recommend that the person stopped not do anything to further complicate his or her situation, and to particularly avoid injecting extraneous factors unrelated to the stop.

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  17. Interesting explanation, or rule of thumb on how to behave around law enforcement officials, but I feel if one isn't guilty then one shouldn't have to memorize the "rules of etiquette when speaking to a police officer". As for Professor Gates, his demeanor and irate behavior placed in handcuffs. The police officer didn't want to be "embarrassed" in front of the growing bystanders, nor was he going to be spoken to as such. But it seems that now, after reviewing the situation, Professor Gates might have been wrongfully arrested.

    ReplyDelete
  18. We managed to locate the "advice" provided by comedian Chris Rock regarding police stops. Click on his name within the text on point number 2 above, and you will see the video.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Coop:

    We haven't given out a "Comment of the Month" award over the past several months; however, we actually consider this to be the Comment of the Year (at least thus far).

    It's pretty powerful. Last we knew, the individual who called the police was not a "neighbor," but someone who just happened to observe the activity. We'll follow up on that.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Note to self: Get to know my neighbors much better.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks Natch. It is rare in situations of this type, which escalate and then spin out of control, that only one side is totally at fault. Thanks. We'll check it out.

    ReplyDelete

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