Police departments are divided about what lessons can be drawn from the arrest of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates at his home, says National Public Radio. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called what happened to Gates “every black man’s nightmare,” but it’d be fair to say that what happened in Cambridge is every police department’s nightmare, too. “We’ve been all watching, and it forces you to take a step back [and] look at what you’re doing to ensure what you’re doing is appropriate,” says Martin Flask, Cleveland’s public safety director.
“Folks want to take a look at their protocols and their procedures and make sure that it doesn’t happen in their neck of the woods,” says Joseph McMillan, outgoing head of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. To him, the lesson from Cambridge is about abusing authority. He says many chiefs are cautioning their officers to use more discretion when making arrests on disorderly conduct. Others don’t believe that police departments will be able to police themselves on such a hot-button issue. New York state Sen. Eric Adams, a former police officer, points to the many police unions and departments that insist the Cambridge police did nothing wrong. He wants a federal investigation into whether local police make unjustifiable or illegal arrests.