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(CNN) — The commissioner of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police department said Thursday he “deeply regrets” the arrest of prominent black Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., but stands by the procedures followed by his department. “I believe that Sgt. [James] Crowley acted in a way that is consistent with his training at the department, and consistent with national standards of law enforcement protocol,” Commissioner Robert Haas said, referring to the officer who made the July 16 arrest at the professor’s home (www.CNN.com) This is exactly PART of the problem. Police officers are thoroughly trained to “control” … not to listen. I agree it was not either man’s best moment, however, having spent some time working with and talking to police officers, I have seen a great deal of emphasis expressed about how citizens should respond to police officers and not nearly enough on how police officers should respond to citizens … especially when dealing with unique situations that fall outside the realm of standard protocol. Because Office Crowley followed standard operating procedures to the letter, he missed an opportunity. When Professor Gates allowed himself to be offended by the officer challenging him, he also missed an opportunity. Both men seem to have been inappropriate in their reactions and responses to each other. This incident emphasizes how quickly our perceptions and emotions drive how we behave. Both of these men appear to have demonstrated a lack of emotional intelligence so that cooler heads could have prevailed. When a citizen does not immediately comply to an officer’s command, that action is seen as a threat. When a police officer does not immediately listen to the citizen’s side of the story, it is perceived as bullying. Police officers have a difficult job and they face dangerous situations everyday; but I think most understand that when they sign up for the job. Being a world-renown professor generally means certain privileges and expectations are afforded Professor Gates and this was called into question during this incident. This clash of the titans should have never reached the level of agitation it did. The good news in this is that we are at least discussing ways to improve relationships between people of color and law enforcement. That said, I hope both men and the country use this incident as an opportunity to learn ways to be more respectful to each other People should be safe in their homes and law enforcement officers should be seen by citizens as the professionals I believe most of them truly are. Dr. B

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