Tonight’s presidential session with Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge officer James Crowley might provide an opportunity to discuss the general problem of arrests for “contempt of cop,” says St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario. Last year, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer crunched six years’ worth of arrest and population data and found that blacks in that city were eight times more likely than whites to be arrested and booked on a charge of “obstructing” – a kissing cousin to the disorderly-conduct charge that was used to arrest Gates. (Seattle police deny racial bias.)
The newspaper noted that Seattle police civilian auditor Kate Flamer warned police four years ago about the need for more training and stiffer punishments for officers who “abuse their discretion.” “Don’t arrest for ‘contempt of cop,’ ” said Seattle police legal adviser Leo Poort. “Officers must be thick-skinned and not unduly influenced by the attitudes of persons they contact. Flunking the ‘attitude’ test (is) not a bookable offense.” The police chief in Albuquerque, N.M., concerned about a community backlash over such arrests, instructed rank-and-file cops to not slap citizens with “refusing to obey” violations unless the target already was undergoing a bust on another crime.