The Cambridge, Mass., police department has announced the creation of a committee to “help identify lessons learned from the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” or, rather, to Figure It All Out. It supposedly will meet several times over the next few months and do what all committees do: make a report.
Chairing the 12-member panel – which is filled with experts from the fields of “law enforcement, diversity, community relations, and conflict resolution,” according to the Cambridge PD press release – is Chuck Wexler, executive director of the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum.Other members: Charles Ramsey, the former D.C. police chief, Terrance Gainer, the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms; and Aaron David Miller, a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center who has advised six secretaries of state on the conflict in the Middle East, which should help, except that that conflict is still going strong.
“I’m just hoping to make sense of this thing,” Wexler tells the Washington Post. “This is one of those cases where everyone has an opinion about it. It’s almost like some kind of Rorschach test. People see it and they read into it what they want.”
It’s all well and good to have a committee meet and noodle around big uncomfortable things. But the panel is going to have to get down lower and dirtier than the press release suggests it will if it’s going to come up with anything useful.
Consider the phrasing of one of the questions the panel will take up: “How does the Cambridge Police Department take this event and use it as an opportunity to modify its operational procedures: obtain a better appreciation of the complexities associated with policing in a very complex social setting: gaining a much deeper appreciation of interactive social skills, and so on?”
A better appreciation of the complexities associated with policing in a very complex social setting? You mean, white policing on black “suspects”? Racial profiling? Is that what that means?