Obama was right on Cops’ Stupidity
One thing is clear: Henry Gates did not violate any law. Under Massachusetts law, it is not a crime neither is it illegal to yell at a cop.
The Massachusetts courts have long held that a person who berates an officer, even during an arrest, is not guilty of disorderly conduct.
Yet, the arrogant cop had busted into Mr Gates private space on a mistaken assumption, made the old man upset then turned around and arrested him for disorderly conduct to wit, making abusive remarks at him the G-D Almighty Cop.
The Massachusetts statute defining “disorderly conduct” used to have a provision that made it illegal to make “unreasonable noise or offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display,” or to address “abusive language to any person present.”
The courts however found that provision to violate the Massachusetts Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of speech. So police cannot lawfully arrest a person for hurling abusive language at an officer. This would contravene the free speech right of the citizens.
And when a policeman acting under the laws of Massachussets arrogates to himself the right to enforce fictitious laws against abusive remarks, then such a cop has stepped outside his zone of authority either from stupidity, illiteracy, or wanton abuse of power.
Many courts in Massachusetts have considered whether a person is guilty of disorderly conduct for verbally abusing a police officer and a few examples are provided below.
In Commonwealth v. Lopiano, a 2004 decision, an appeals court held it was not disorderly conduct for a person who angrily yelled at an officer that his civil rights were being violated.
In Commonwealth v. Mallahan, a decision made in 2008, an appeals court held that a person who launched into a profanity-laced tirade against a police officer in front of spectators could not be convicted of disorderly conduct.
As such, it is beyond a pale of doubt that under the laws of Massachusetts that Gates would not have been guilty of committing a disorderly conduct even if he had absued the police in a public place. But worse this was a matter unfolding in the privacy of Mr. Gates home.
So why arrest the elderly distinguished gentleman? Why charge him? Why drop the charge?
The Cambridge Police should be hiring better eductaed officers. They should be schooling their officers to know the difference between legal and illegal conduct.
According to Adam Wrinkler, professor of law at UCLA:
“Arresting someone for doing something that isn’t illegal is pretty stupid.
Then again, perhaps Obama was wrong. Maybe the police officer wasn’t acting stupidly. He was just acting abusively. That is even worse.”