Experts Analyze Divergent Accounts In Gates Case


The divergent accounts by Henry Louis Gates of Harvard and Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley in the now-infamous arrest of Gates at his own home are borne out by research on the “implicit biases that work below the conscious level in many of us, including those of us who want to be without prejudice,” criminologist Lorie Fridell of the University of South Florida tells the Washington Post.

“There’s this backdrop to the interaction that is based on the negative history of the police and minorities,” said Fridell, who provides command-level training on racial profiling. “For some police, when [officers] go into an interaction with a person of color, they may be expecting less deference or may be expecting from that person more aggressiveness. If the officer is expecting that, he or she might become more forceful in expectation, and I could see the possibility of a downward spiral.” On the other hand, many African Americans are taught to show respect to police out of fear for “survival” — even when they feel they are being mistreated — because they are stereotyped as “violent,” said law Prof. Paul Butler of George Washington University, a former federal prosecutor. “There is a history of assertive African Americans having bad encounters with police,” he said.

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