How far is too far?

27 07 2009

When my grandparents were getting on in their years, their kids decided to move them into an assisted living facility about four hours away.  It was a nice little apartment where they could have their own home with minimal supervision and that medical supervision could be escalated as needed as their health declined. But the house they were leaving behind was just amazing.  As far back as I could remember their house was like a fairytale for me and I dreamt of the day I could possibly live there.  It was such a perfect house.  Anything you could think of needing was there it seemed and when I visited, it was like I had been transported to some utopia.

It’s possible it was just the atmosphere and not the tangible parts of the house, but it was my childhood heaven.  My father decided to buy it and while it lost some of its appeal each time he rearranged anything within the house, it was still a dream world.  I remember when he decided to put an entertainment center on a wall instead of putting the television in the cubby where the television had always been for my grandparents.

My husband and I had taken a week of his military leave to come home and help with the moving of my grandparents and their belongings from Dodge City to Buhler.  Help is probably not the right word as I refused to help.  I felt then, and still do, that moving them was a death sentence to their livelihood and that they shouldn’t have been moved.  So I played with my daughter and stayed out of the ongoings.  Most of the items were moved out on a cold day in winter, but there were bits and pieces that either would not fit in their new place or just hadn’t gotten moved.  But my dad began the process a few weeks later of moving his belongings from Virginia to the house.

He arrived to the house during the day, with his large rig pulled up in front of their ranch house.  He had forgotten the security codes for their alarm system, but managed to get it silenced and began unloading his stuff.  He was carrying a box out of the back of his semi trailer when the Dodge City police rolled up.  Three cars.  The alarm had went off and calls had been unanswered to the house, so the security company had contacted local police.  He explained that it was his parent’s house and he had forgotten the security codes.  The officers bid him a nice day and left.

It set my dad off.  Yes, they had responded with wonderful haste.  But they never once asked for his identification, never asked to look through the house.  All they saw was his rig, him carrying a large box, and the empty living room.  He wrote a fuming letter about how he could have been anyone, done anything from robbery to worse – and how their lack of fully investigating the situation could have allowed it to happen.

I thought about this when I heard about the situation with Professor Gates.  I thought back on how the cops hadn’t identified my father and how in this situation with Gates, they were doing what they should have.  What a pompous ass Gates was to interject the race card into the situation when the cops were merely trying to do their job.  According to the media and police, his first response was to say it was because he was black and the officer was white.  It set me off and even though I am normally fairly supportive of the actions of President Obama, it really let me down that he would perpetuate this as being a race issue. Obviously, Gates resisted telling the officers who he was when they had a call where a neighbour had seen a black man breaking into the house.  In fact, the officer had verified this prior to approaching the house and he was within his right to make sure that Gates’ story was true.  What kind of hell would ensue if the officer had just taken him at his word and later found that the homeowners were tied up and butchered in their home?

But like every penny you find on the street, there are two sides.  Today, Lucia Whalen became part of the story.  Lucia is the neighbour who had called the police about the suspicious behaviour.  And while the media focus is on the fact that Lucia never said anything about a black person; the more critical part in my eyes is that she never spoke to the arresting officer, despite his stating as such in his report.  In fact, in his report, he said that he was approaching the house of the suspected break in when Lucia, a white woman, called out to him and told him she saw two black men with backpacks tried to force their way into the house.  In fact, Lucia is Portuguese and appears Hispanic according to the media.

The officer goes on to say he was inside Gates’ house when he asked for Gates’ identification.  Gates asked for his first.  Now to backtrack, the officer while in uniform, says that he responded to the scene in an unmarked car.  So, a person in an unmarked car shows up in police clothes to an unsuspecting residence and demands their personal information.  I can see why Gates asked to see his first.  I know if someone pulled up in some non-police looking vehicle in what could easily be a police costume and wants to see my personal identification, I too would be demanding to see their badge.

At some point he baits, in my opinion, Gates outside because, again in my opinion, as long as they were in the home, it wasn’t public.  The only people who know what was said prior to the other officer arriving are Gates and Crowley, the arresting officer.  And while initially I was inclined to think that this was an officer doing his sworn duty and that Gates was only trying to play the race card – I cannot any longer.  I cannot help but wonder what Crowley said that baited Gates to the point that he claimed it was a racist encounter.  I do believe there was something said by Crowley, solely because that officer interjected race based ‘facts’ into his report, when those racial ‘facts’ were lies.  Whalen never identified the potential prowlers as black; I’ve listened to the call.  And she says she never once met with the officer before he arrested Gates.  And he identifies her as white, when she is not.

I am rambling a bit now, but I am anxious to see how this plays out.  I want to hear these recordings they have of Gates being belligerent and using the race card.  I want to know why the officer baited Gates out of his house for a reason other than the means of being able to arrest him for public disruption and disorderly conduct.  I want to know what grounds a police officer has to enter a private home and not identify himself to the resident.




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