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The Act of Violence: Police Officer Fears

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Two years ago last July, President Obama held an unusual “peace treaty” meeting at the White House. It was not between warring political parties or countries on the brink of aggression, but between a professor and a cop. The bull session over beers with Mr. Obama, Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, and Cambridge, MA police Sgt. James Crowley certainly seemed to serve its function, which was to provide closure to an event that has divided the police and the citizenry on a familiar issue: race. The summit helped both men clear their air, in front of two highly-interested spectators/moderators, in President Obama and Vice President Biden.

The driver for this meeting was the encounter Dr. Gates and Sgt. Crowley had at night on July 16, 2009, at the professor’s Cambridge home. Locked out and trying to figure a way in, the African-American man was challenged by the sergeant, who is white, as being a possible burglar, based on 911 calls. What could have ended as a misunderstanding about a resident not having his house keys, instead turned into Dr. Gates going to jail for resisting his arrest.

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