American Morning

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July 28th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

We Listen – Your Comments 7/28/09

Editor's Note: With the release of the 911 tapes from Professor H.L. Gates, Jr., arrest, American Morning's Tuesday audience weighed heavily in favor of the professor over the police.  The majority believed that racial profiling was evidenced by the transcripts from the 911 call.

  • Arlene:  It doesn't matter the caller didn't use the words "2 black men." The caller clearly stated it may be the homeowner entering his own home. The police should not have harassed Mr. Gates in light of this admission. Nor should they have entered his home without a search warrant and he should not have been arrested without committing a crime. Annoying a Police officer is not a crime. He was an American on his own property and is guaranteed a right to freedom of speech. We do not live in a police state yet.
  • Jacque:  It's hard to say racial profiling did not play a part in the Gates arrest when even the dispatcher on the call first asked the caller if the suspects were black or Hispanic.  He did include white the first time around, but natural instinct in America that criminals are either black or Hispanic made him as the question just like he was thinking.  Gates overreacted but the cop gave a false account of what happened.  I have no reason to believe anything the cop is saying at this point.  Both of their actions were probably racially motivate.

With the release of the 911 transcripts, has your opinion changed about this situation?  What do you think about the revelation that “race” was brought up by the police rather than the neighbor who was reporting the incident?

Most felt the Cambridge policeman, Officer Crowley, should have diffused the situation and walked away, once Professor Gates’ identity was established.  Rather than racial profiling, many recognized that unprofessional attitudes for both the professor and the policeman played a part in the escalation of the incident.

  • Larry:  I am a teacher, and in our profession, the person who has the most power in the situation should be the one to diffuse it. There should not have been an arrest of Robert Gates. The officer should have walked away
  • Al:  The truth is positive.  The police man from NJ is wrong when he says there is no police culpability.  They did their job.  Ask anyone who is charged with similar jobs.  Investigate and deal with ruffled patrons.  ER staff, bouncers, firefighters, emt's.  We do it all the time w/o arresting anyone.  All you have to do is back up just a second,  act respectfully and people calm down.  The problem is the attachment to ego and authority. Granted that some situations are inherently dangerous and require immediate command action but this should not have been necessary.  This is about status, class, privilege, power and, race.
  • Gloria:  Clearly, Prof. Gates took offense.  Perhaps it is understandable:  he was just back from a long trip and he couldn't get into his house.  Still, that doesn't change the fact that he took offense.  This was never about race.  This is about someone who let the situation get away from him and did not cooperate with the police.  Prof. Gates did not act very professorial, unfortunately.
  • Marcia:  why was a drivers license and a harvard id not satisfying to officer crowley not enough he was still requesting harvard police to respond to verify the id. great threat from a man walking with a cane. police do have a difficult job which is undisputed. however, when not faced with a life and death situation they can exercise better judgment than that displayed in this situation. a person who does not walk in professor gate body or the one i walk in may have a different opinion because they view and experience  this part of life from a different angle. i work in healthcare and sad enough it has a color too. one would believe that healthcare would be exempt because we are aware of the fact that all human are  can fall prey to the same illness and diseases. gates probably think he was exempt based on his accomplishments. this has nothing to do with living amongst people .as a great nation i honestly believe  race relations will continue to improve as we strive to hold the status of being  one of the most  civilized nations on earth
  • Tommy:  If it had been a black police officer, we wouldn't be hearing all of this. The easy way for blacks is to play the race card. I grew up in the '60's and it seems that we are going back to them. It is reverse discrimination today.

Was it the professional responsibility of the police to keep the situation from escalating into something dangerous?  Do you believe, as the last viewer remarks, that had the policeman been black, this situation would have never arisen?  How do we as a society move forward in race relations when such issues still exist?  What do you see as a solution?


Filed under: We Listen
July 28th, 2009
01:16 PM ET

Commentary: Vick could come back as early as week 1

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Smith says Vick's impact as a humane spokesperson could be far-reaching"]

Michael Vick is back in the game. Now he needs to find an NFL team that will let him play. The former star quarterback, who just finished serving 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring, received a conditional reinstatement Monday from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. A ruling on Vick’s full reinstatement is not expected until October but he could be cleared before then.

Ryan Smith is sports attorney and BET talk show host and spoke to CNN’s Kiran Chetry Tuesday.

Kiran Chetry: Were you surprised that Roger Goodell said Vick could come back in?
Ryan Smith: Not at all. He had to give him some sort of second chance. Playing in the NFL is privilege, not a right but there has to be some sort of forgiveness. He served 18 months. Goodell is thinking let's let him back in, at a time frame that’s not immediate after he served his sentence but after a little bit of time.

Chetry: When we talk about conditional what does he have to do, what obligation does he have to meet to be fully reinstated?

Smith: Well Michael Vick submitted a plan to the commissioner about what he’s willing to do to show that not only that he has remorse but also that he's going be an active good citizen and spokesman on the behalf of dogs. He's going to work with the humane society possibly to be a spokesman for them because his voice as a convicted felon of these kinds of crimes has a greater impact than someone just coming out and saying ‘don't abuse jobs.’ Look at what he lost, he could say, this is why you should not hurt dogs.

Chetry: Just to remind people who may have forgotten the federal conspiracy charge against Vick for his role in the dog fighting venture which was on his property. It included executing eight dogs who underperformed. One of them, he got the okay to wet the dog down and electrocute them. In one case they hung the dogs, in one case he drowned them, and in another case they slammed the dog's body against the wall. If you and I faced prison time for that, would we get our old jobs back?

Smith: We would never get our jobs back. That makes it surprising in the overall scheme of things. That's why the commissioner is taking this approach. Look at it this way, the NFL doesn't just want people to come and play in their league and be good players, they want good citizens. So what he's trying to say, look, I don't want to take everything away from him. He served 18 months in jail. He did his time but I’m not going to let him right back in unless he shows me complete remorse. Not only is he going to be somebody who’s going to say ‘I’m sorry’, but he's going to be somebody to fight for the rights of dogs and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Chetry: The other interesting thing is you said that Roger Goodell said in his statement that the playing for the NFL is a privilege, its not a right. But he also said that a player is held to a standard of conduct higher than that generally expected in society and is held accountable when the standard isn't met. In this case, it seems, yes, he served his time but that wasn't being held to a higher standard. The dog-fighting ring is not anything that's acceptable to society but he's getting his job back.

Smith: Yes because most people would not get their jobs back but I think what he’s trying to show is if he cuts the player off now then NFL players might look and say, you know what, this is unfair. I served my time. You're trying to hold me to a standard that's higher but I'm in the public eye all the time. Maybe if I can show remorse, maybe if I can go out there and do things that the normal citizen can't do because of my stature maybe I should be let back in.

Chetry: He cleared that first hurdle. The next hurdle is finding a team that will take him on. What's the likelihood of this?


Filed under: American Morning • Commentary • Controversy
July 28th, 2009
08:59 AM ET

Commentary: 'The police did not cause this situation. They did their job.'

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Det. Lt. Rogers said the Cambridge police officers did not profile"]

On Thursday, the president will meet with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge police officer, Sergeant James Crowley who arrested him. But the newly released 911 tapes and recordings of Crowley’s communication with his fellow officers are raising some new questions.

Police detective lieutenant Steven Rogers, 30-year veteran of the Nutley, New Jersey police department and the author of "Proven Strategies for Effective Community Oriented Policing" spoke with CNN’s John Roberts Tuesday.

John Roberts: Lucia Whalen was the woman who called in after talking with a neighbor who said that she saw a couple of people allegedly trying to break in to the home of Henry Louis Gates Jr. Whalen said two men were breaking into a home and when was asked if they were black, white or Hispanic she said she wasn’t sure but one of them looked ‘kind of Hispanic.’ The official police report said the 911 call described two African Americans who were trying to break into the house. Whalen's attorney disputed that whole notion saying that she never said that two black men were trying to break into the house and the 911 tapes seemed to back her up on that. So a couple of questions arise out of this. What would lead to this discrepancy and based on that 911 call, what would Sergeant Crowley have expected he was coming up upon when he went to Henry Louis Gates’ home?

Det. Lt. Steve Rogers: Obviously there is a discrepancy. That's something that the police department is going to have to work through. However, I’m troubled, John, over the fact this has become a discussion about racial profiling. That was never the case. These police officers responded to a scene that was burglarized once before. And they never brought up race. What’s troubling about this is that the president of the United States made this into an issue of stereotyping the color blue. This is a problem police officers have nationally. We can't look at every police officer as being prejudice and profiling as a result of responding to any crime scene that involves a person of color. So what I’m saying is that these officers acted properly. They did what they had to do according to law and unfortunately, race has come into this picture.

Roberts: So do you think that the president overstepped when he responded to the Lynn Sweet "Chicago Sun-times" question at that press conference about this case?


Filed under: American Morning
July 28th, 2009
06:53 AM ET

Newly released tapes: 911 caller in Gates arrest never referred to 'black suspects'

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested after a break-in was reported to police."]

(CNN) - The woman who made the 911 call that led to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. never referred to black suspects when she called authorities for what she thought was a potential break-in.

Police in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released the 911 phone call Monday. In the call, Lucia Whalen reports seeing "two larger men, one looked kind of Hispanic, but I'm not really sure, and the other one entered, and I didn't see what he looked like at all."

"I just saw it from a distance, and this older woman was worried, thinking somebody's breaking in someone's house and they've been barging in," Whalen says. "She interrupted me, and that's when I noticed. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all, to be honest with you. So I was just calling because she was a concerned neighbor, I guess."

Attorney Wendy Murphy, who represents Whalen, also categorically rejected part of the police report that said Whalen talked with Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, at the scene.

"Let me be clear: She never had a conversation with Sgt. Crowley at the scene," Murphy told CNN by phone. "And she never said to any police officer or to anybody 'two black men.' She never used the word 'black.' Period."

She added, "I'm not sure what the police explanation will be. Frankly, I don't care. Her only goal is to make it clear she never described them as black. She never saw their race. ... All she reported was behavior, not skin color."

Calls to the Cambridge Police Department about the issue have not been returned. Police Commissioner Robert Haas told reporters at a news conference Monday that the 911 tape and police transmission from that day "speak for themselves, and I would ask that you form your own opinion." He added that police always ask themselves: "If I had to do it over again, what would I have done differently?"

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Controversy
July 28th, 2009
06:41 AM ET

Two key GOP senators to oppose Sotomayor

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination is to be put to a vote in the Judiciary Committee today."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Two key Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee announced their opposition to Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Friday, a further sign the party's conservative base is uniting against President Obama's first high court pick.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the former chairman of the committee, and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, head of the party's Senate campaign committee, announced on the Senate floor their intention to vote against the 55-year-old federal appeals court judge.

Hatch's decision came as something of a surprise. The veteran Republican has voted for every high court nominee in his 32-year Senate career, including President Clinton's two liberal choices, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Hatch had praised Sotomayor's "credentials and experience" and the fact that she would be the first Hispanic justice. But despite the nominee's compelling life story, Hatch said that controversial off-the-bench comments by Sotomayor troubled him.

"I reluctantly, and with a heavy heart, have found that I cannot support her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court," Hatch said in a written statement.

"In truth, I wish President Obama had chosen a Hispanic nominee that all senators could support. I believe it would have done a great deal for our great country. Although Judge Sotomayor has a compelling life story and dedication to public service, her statements and record were too much at odds with the principles about the judiciary in which I deeply believe."

Cornyn candidly admitted that his opposition to Sotomayor could carry political risks in his home state, where one-third of the electorate is Hispanic.

"Voting to confirm a judge - this judge or any judge - despite doubts would certainly be the politically expedient thing to do, but I don't believe it would be the right thing to do," he said on the Senate floor.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Politics
July 28th, 2009
06:25 AM ET

NFL reinstates Michael Vick on conditional basis

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Michael Vick will be considered for full reinstatement based on his progress by the sixth week."]

(CNN) - Nearly two years after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of bankrolling a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in Virginia, Michael Vick was reinstated to the National Football League on a conditional basis, according to an NFL statement Monday.

Vick "will be considered for full reinstatement and to play in regular-season games by Week 6 based on the progress he makes in his transition plan," the statement said. Week 6 of the NFL season is in October.

Vick may participate in practices, workouts and meetings and may play in his club's final two preseason games under the conditions of his reinstatement, the league said.

Vick, in a statement, thanked the league's commissioner and former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, who has served as his mentor.

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Commissioner [Roger] Goodell for allowing me to be readmitted to the National Football League," Vick said in a statement. "I fully understand that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, not a right, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity I have been given."

Vick, 29, was freed from federal prison at Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 20 and returned to his home to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in home confinement.

Vick also said in his statement that he is re-evaluating his life after the "terrible mistakes" he made.

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Filed under: Controversy