Charges Against Henry Louis Gates Dropped

Disorderly conduct charges were dropped against Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., who was arrested at his home in Cambridge, Mass., last week after apparently being mistaken for a burglar.

Gates, historian and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard, returned from China on Thursday and found his front door swelled shut. Someone saw him and his driver force open the door and called police.

By the time a police sergeant showed up, Gates was already inside.

Before Gates could say anything to the officer, his lawyer Charles Ogletree said, he was asked to step outside.

Ogletree, also a Harvard professor, said Gates walked to the door and was asked to step outside. Gates explained that he lived in the house, Ogletree said, but the sergeant insisted he come out. When Gates asked who the officer was, the lawyer said, the officer asked for identification.

Differing Accounts

As word spread, fellow black professors at Harvard accused the police of racism. Blogs and local TV shows buzzed with the story.

Police dismissed the charges Tuesday.

"This incident should not be viewed as one that demeans the character and reputation of professor Gates or the character of the Cambridge Police Department," said Kelly Downes, a spokeswoman for the department. "All parties agree this is a just resolution to an unfortunate set of circumstances."

Downs said race was not a factor in the arrest, which she called justified. Some experts, such as Dennis Kenney, a former police officer and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, raise their eyebrows at that assertion.

The charges being dropped "suggests there was no backing to the arrest, which, in fact, now does expose the department and the officer to some civil risk as well," he said.

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