Obama’s apology sought in arrest race row

BOSTON: Police groups on Friday demanded an apology from US President Barack Obama who said officers acted “stupidly” in arresting

a prominent black Harvard


Police unions and fellow officers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, rallied around Sergeant James Crowley who arrested Henry Louis Gates for disorderly conduct after the eminent scholar broke into his own home.

Obama’s “remarks were obviously misdirected but were made worse yet by a suggestion that somehow this case reminds us of a history of racial abuse by law enforcement,” said Sergeant Dennis O’Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association.

O’Connor said he wanted Obama to “apologise to the men and women of the Cambridge police department.” Steve Killian, president of the Cambridge Police Patrol Officer’s Association, called Obama’s response “wrong.” “The president should make an apology to all law enforcement personnel throughout the entire country who took offence to this,” Killian said. The defiant stand by

police in Cambridge, home to Harvard university where Gates teaches African American

studies, fanned a rising political storm around Obama.

As the country’s first black president, Obama has trod carefully in addressing deep-rooted racism issues, including a history of police bias towards African Americans and minorities.

Gates, a friend of Obama, was arrested on July 16 at his house after a neighbour mistook the academic for a burglar. Police arrived to investigate and an altercation ensued. Gates accuses police of being aggressive and racist and has also asked for an apology. He said he was handcuffed outside his house despite showing his identification and held for four hours. Police say the professor became abusive, refused to provide evidence that he was in his own home, and was arrested after becoming disorderly. Charges were dropped shortly after.

The White House has been trying to play down Obama’s comments, but the row shows no sign of disappearing and is an unwelcome distraction as he faces an uphill battle to push through health care reform in Congress.

Prez calls concerned copWASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has called the white policeman who arrested Harvard University black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. The president says he believes the sergeant to be an outstanding police officer.

The president said on Friday that he continues to think both the officer, Sgt James Crowley, and Gates overreacted, but he also faulted his own comments on the incident. Obama made an impromptu appearance at the daily White House briefing, and told reporters that: “I could’ve calibrated those words differently.”

The president caused a

stir when he said at a prime-time news conference earlier this week that police in

Cambridge, Massachusetts, had “acted stupidly” by arresting Gates. — AP