Race Debate Continues on Professor's Arrest

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has created a media frenzy after accusing the Cambridge, Mass., police department of "acting stupidly" in a case involving the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"The fact it has garnered so much attention, I think, is a testimony that these are issues that are still very sensitive here in America," he said.

Two days after wading into the racially-charged arrest of his self-proclaimed friend, Obama took the podium again, Friday, to comment on the controversy.

"In my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. Crowley specifically, and I could have calibrated those words differently," he admitted.

Obama said he spoke with the arresting officer, Sgt. James Crowley, and called him a decent guy.  Still, police officers in and around Cambridge say they want an apology.  Read Obama's comments here.

Was this really a racially motivated event?  CBN News spoke with Harvard University graduate Bishop E.W. Jackson about the debate surrounding Gates' arrest. Click play for his comments.

In a show of solidarity, Massachusetts law enforcement officers rallied behind Crowley, who kept quiet at the press conference. When the case first surfaced, however, he did comment on arresting the prominent, black Harvard professor.

"There was a lot of yelling. There was references to my mother," Crowley recalled. "Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing."

Crowley and another black officer on the scene stand by the decision to arrest him. They came to Gates' home after a neighbor reported she saw two men breaking in. In actuality, Gates says it was him and his friend trying to open a broken door.

After refusing to show identification in his own home, Gates was arrested.  He says the confrontation came because he's black.

Howard University School of Law professor Kurt Schmoke, who's a friend of Gates', says there is a history of tension between blacks and law enforcement that may have played a factor.

"We're getting to the point where we see blue, but it's just been our experience that the police department -- we view with a little more skepticism," he said.

Still, Schmoke believes some good can come out of the incident.

"I know some people are upset, but commenting as we did will help us all remember we have issues we have to deal with," he said.  "Better to talk forthrightly."

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.