Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blurry blue line

The line of when to put on handcuffs is a personal and blurry one, varying among officers in the same city, the same precinct, even the same patrol car.
In the aftermath of the Henry Louis Gates, Jr. arrest, an examination of varied attitudes toward "what in police parlance is called getting 'lippy'":

As Officers Face Heated Words, Their Tactics Vary (New York Times)

comments: 4

macon d said...

Yes, "lippy." Reminiscent of "uppity," and I'm glad the article went there (even if I had to wait until the very end of the article -- this is a "white-framed" article -- where, for instance, would discussion of racially coded "uppity" behavior likely be in an article written on this topic from a non-white perspective?).

I think that officer Jim Crow -- excuse me, James Crowley -- is likely quite concerned at a conscious level with treating black suspects just as he would white ones. After all, he teaches new officers how to avoid racial profiling. Still, as a police officer, and especially as a white one, I think there's a likelihood that he takes abusive behavior less calmly from from black suspects than from white ones. Yes, "As Officers Face Heated Words, Their Tactics Vary," and so do their reactions, in so many cases, to suspects of different races. Hard to prove in such cases as that of Gates, but more likely a factor in his case than so many observers seem willing to allow.

Michael Leddy said...

I hadn't thought about Crowley's name — it only adds to the surrealism of this situation.

Stephen Killion of the Cambridge Police Patrol Officers Association said of Gates that "He wanted to prove who he was" and that "He deems himself higher than everyone else around" — comments also reminiscent of "uppity," I'd say.

brian said...

I've been closely following this case, for lack of a better thing to do, and so I asked a lawyer friend of mine what the MA rules are on what exactly is "disorderly conduct"; here are the (often funny and strange, but official) results. I took the liberty of italicizing portions that describe behaviors for which I could be arrested almost any day of the week...


Common night walkers, common street walkers, both male and female, common railers and brawlers, persons who with offensive and disorderly acts or language accost or annoy persons of the opposite sex, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, idle and disorderly persons, disturbers of the peace, keepers of noisy and disorderly houses, and persons guilty of indecent exposure may be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than two hundred dollars, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for these details, Brian.