Professor Henry Louis Gates may well be an expert in his academic field but his credentials do not extend to police work, including the role of first responders to reports of residential burglaries.
Whether Dr. Gates likes it or not, a neighbor called in a suspected burglary based on observations of two men trying to enter a house by ramming a door.
She was doing him a favor. Police arrived and found Dr. Gates on the telephone. He insisted that he was the lawful resident but was apparently reluctant to produce ID. He became even more difficult when officers entered the house after he agreed to produce ID. This apparently escalated Dr. Gates' emotions and led him to continue expressing his belief that he was being treated unfairly because of race.
Dr. Gates must think that burglars tell the truth and that no burglar caught in the act would consider lying about being the homeowner.
Likewise, being on the phone does not make him a lawful resident; some burglars use the inside phone to tell confederates outside they've made it inside so that they might also enter.
Police know these things, but Dr. Gates may not. If he thinks about it, Dr. Gates should know that police responding to a burglary cannot safely let the suspected burglar walk around the house on his own to get ID. That's how cops get shot. Such an opportunity allows a real burglar to arm himself or escape. The next time his house is broken into, Dr. Gates should call the president and they can handle the investigation together.
The writer is a retired federal prosecutor now in private practice.