The white Cambridge, Mass., police officer who arrested a black Harvard professor, sparking a national discussion on race, spoke briefly at a national police union convention in Long Beach Monday, thanking the members for defending him when President Barack Obama said he acted “stupidly."
Sgt. James Crowley, who arrested Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., spoke before law enforcement officers and their families gathered at the Fraternal Order of Police convention at the Long Beach Convention Center.
“My sole purpose in coming here was really to reach out to a large organization of police professionals to sincerely thank you,” Crowley said in a brief statement to the crowd. “The past month has been very difficult for my family, my friends, my colleagues back in Cambridge. And it's no exaggeration to say that it wouldn't have been as easy for me to handle this without the support of the Fraternal Order of Police.”
Responding to a call about a prowler July 16, Crowley confronted Gates, who had just broken into his own home at the end of an overseas trip because the door was stuck.
When Gates allegedly yelled at the officer and accused him of racial profiling, Crowley handcuffed the scholar and arrested him on suspicion of disorderly conduct. The charge was later dropped.
The arrest turned into a national brouhaha July 22, when Obama responded to a reporter's question by saying Cambridge police had acted “stupidly.”
Crowley has maintained that he acted appropriately in arresting Gates, and he received the support of the union.
After making his remark about Cambridge police acting stupidly, Obama apologized to Crowley and said he was a good man, but he was still criticized for speaking before he had all the facts.
To calm the waters, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden invited Crowley and Gates to the White House for what became known as the “beer summit.”
Afterwards, Crowley told reporters the conversation was “cordial and productive," and added that he and Gates did not apologize to each other.
Crowley did not specifically mention the Gates arrest or the “beer summit” during his short appearance in Long Beach.
The FOP convention continues through Thursday.