"What we don't need is public safety officials across the country second-guessing themselves," said David Holway, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers. "The president's alienated public safety officers across the country with his comments."
Gates, 58, was arrested at his home July 16 by Sgt. James Crowley, 42, after a woman reported seeing two black men trying to force open the front door. Gates said he had to shove the door open because it was jammed. He was charged with disorderly conduct after police said he yelled at the white officer, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after Crowley demanded Gates show him ID. The charge was dropped Tuesday, but Gates wants an apology.
Obama was asked about Gates' arrest Wednesday night and began his response by saying Gates was a friend and he didn't have all the facts. "But I think it's fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry," Obama said. "No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3 — what I think we know separate and apart from this incident — is that there is a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact."
On Thursday, Obama told ABC News, "From what I can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer, but my suspicion is probably that it would have been better if cooler heads had prevailed."
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said Obama's comments hurt the agency: "This department is deeply pained. It takes its professional pride seriously."
For five of the past six years, Crowley has volunteered with a black colleague in teaching 60 cadets per year about how to avoid targeting suspects because of their race.
Crowley told a local sports radio station Thursday that Obama "didn't know all the facts" about the encounter with Gates.
"From the time he opened the door it seemed that he was very upset, very put off that I was there in the first place," Crowley told WEEI. "Not just what he said, but the tone in which he said it, just seemed very peculiar — even more so now that I know how educated he is."
Crowley said he tried to identify himself but Gates was shouting too loudly to hear.
In an e-mail Thursday, Gates rebutted the sergeant's descriptions and said he had "used no racial slurs," "employed no profanity" and "made no threats."