Christian Science Monitor: What should have happened in Gates confrontation?
Every day across America, police officers investigate murders, defuse domestic squabbles, and arrest dope dealers.
But training is just as important when officers come across a "real American" who is combative and refuses to defer to police authority – even if the alleged offense is relatively minor.
The arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the prominent Harvard scholar, has brought the issue of race and policing literally from the heights of academic inquiry to a dramatic faceoff between a blue-collar Boston-area cop and one of the ivory tower's most recognizable black scholars.
But perhaps one of the core underlying issues in the incident is one of policing: Officers walk a thin line between staying safe and adhering to the Constitution – and straying over that line can have consequences, especially when it involves the black community. ...
... In his view of the Gates case, which he has studied closely, Mr. Stamper suggests that Gates overreacted. But Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley also made a basic mistake: By becoming distracted by Gates's criticisms and protestations, some of which invoked race, his warnings to Gates to calm down fell short of their mark. And as other police officers arrived, Stamper reasons that it became more difficult for Crowley to back down in front of his peers.
"As soon as you give a warning twice, your authority is shot," Stamper says. "Then, you've approached this thing in precisely the opposite way of how you should have approached it."
The best practice, Stamper says, is called "verbal judo" – and it's an art of its own. ...
A few years ago my sister was doing seminars using a book called Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion. It is written by a former English professor and black belt Karate master who became a police officer. He writes how he had to learn about gaining compliance with his authority without resorting to physical force. In Karate, you meet force with force. In Judo, you use the opponents momentum to get them where you want them to go ... thus the metaphor. It isn't just about police but parenting or being in any position of authority. I've been thinking about this book every since this story broke. How interesting to see it explicitly referenced.