Sergeant James Crowley, the Cambridge police officer who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week and touched off a firestorm of controversy, said today he would not agree to Gates's demand for an apology.
Crowley also said the arrest was not racially motivated. "I am not a racist," he said in an interview this evening in his hometown of Natick.
Crowley arrested Gates, a leading authority on African-American history, last Thursday during the investigation of a report of a break-in at Gates's home in Cambridge. The arrest happened just after Gates arrived home from the filming of a PBS documentary in China. His front door was stuck shut, and his taxi driver helped him pry it open.
According to the subsequent police report, a woman called to report two black men trying to force their way into a house. Crowley said in the report that Gates became disruptive and was arrested for disorderly conduct, but Gates has denied that he was disorderly.
Authorities abruptly dropped the charges Tuesday, but Gates today threatened a lawsuit and said Crowley should apologize to him. Gates also told his daughter in an interview posted on the Daily Beast website that he believed the officer had stereotyped, or racially profiled, him.
The incident made headlines around the country and even provoked a comment tonight from President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president. He criticized the Cambridge police in a news conference, saying they had acted "stupidly" in arresting Gates. Cambridge officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Crowley said he had no comment on the president's remarks.
A father of three who coaches youth basketball and plays on a local softball team, Crowley declined to comment in the afternoon, but spoke to a Globe reporter this evening.
Earlier today, a Cambridge police union expressed "full and unqualified support" for Crowley.
"Sergeant Crowley is a highly respected veteran supervisor with a distinguished record in the Cambridge Police Department," said the statement issued by the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association, which represents 50 sergeants and lieutenants. "His actions at the scene of this matter were consistent with his training, with the informed policies and practices of the Department, and with applicable legal standards."
But the chairman of Harvard's Department of African and African American Studies released a letter to Gates, saying that his colleagues were "outraged" by the arrest.
"As your friend, co-author, co-teacher, and colleague, I can say honestly that in the many contexts in which I have seen you over many years, I have never known you to exhibit tumultuous or disorderly conduct," Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham wrote. "Racial profiling by the police has long been a subject of discussion by academics, lawyers, and ordinary citizens, and sensitivity sessions have clearly not yielded a transformed police force."
One of Crowley's neighbors, Ed Shagory, a retired attorney, said he has been friends with Crowley and his family for more than 17 years.
He said he was upset about the criticism levied against his friend, whom he supports in the dispute. "I think the world of him and his family," Shagory said.
He said he was disturbed by the intense worldwide, often sensational, media coverage on the case. His daughter, serving in Iraq, even read about the news, Shagory said.
"I think it should have been over and done with yesterday,'' he said, referring to the decision by the department to drop all charges. He also questioned Gates's announcement that his altercation with Crowley had inspired him to make a television documentary about racial profiling.
"I think the idea of him already planning a documentary is very premature, and a very unnecessary thing to say before all the facts are even in," Shagory said.
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