The white police officer who was criticized by President Barack Obama for arresting a black Harvard professor outside his home has fired back at the president and other critics, refusing to apologize for his actions.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with television station WHDH that TODAY aired Friday, Sgt. James Crowley, an 11-year veteran of the Cambridge Police Department, also said he was aware when he arrested professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. that it would be seen as controversial and bring unwanted attention on him. But, he insisted, Gates’ aggressive behavior left the officer with no choice.
“I really didn’t want to have to take such a drastic action because I knew it was going to bring a certain amount of attention, unwanted attention, on me. Nonetheless, that’s how far professor Gates pushed it and provoked and just wouldn’t stop,” Crowley said.
The incident happened on Thursday, July 16. On Wednesday, July 22, Obama was asked about it at his press conference regarding his efforts to pass a national health care plan. The president said that police acted “stupidly” in arresting the professor, who is a personal friend of Obama’s.
On Thursday, Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said he was “deeply pained” by Obama’s comments and defended Crowley. On Friday, Crowley was present at a midday press conference called by police union officials to defend police conduct during the incident, but he did not speak or answer questions from press.
Gates, who is one of the nation’s leading scholars on race relations in America, has also jumped into the fray, offering a description of what happened that night that is widely at odds with the story told by Crowley and Cambridge police.