Obama Defends Criticism of Cambridge Police in Arrest of Gates

Simmons has said before that she was "outraged" at the arrest of Gates, whom she also knows socially. Today, she said they have still not finished investigating the incident.

When asked if she thought it was appropriate for Obama to comment, Simmons said, "I'm not going to make a judgement on what the president says and when he says it."

"I appreciate President Obama's remarks. As he mentioned in his statement, he and Professor Gates are friends, and he doesn't know all the facts," Simmons said. "We're still trying to figure out ... what really happened and how we can move toward a resolution."

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said today at a news conference of the Congressional Black Caucus that: "The president was right on target. Some of us come from communities that have been racially profiled. This is an example of … unfinished business in America and unequality and racism that continues to exist."

According to a January ABC News/Washington Post poll, 74 percent of black Americans said they have personally experienced racial discrimination. But it's not a racial issue limited to blacks. Sixty-eight percent of other non-white Americans also said they were discriminated against racially.

Per ABC News' polling director Gary Langer, the numbers support Obama's position. Specifically to the Gates case, 76 percent of African-Americans in the poll said blacks in their community do not receive equal treatment as whites from the police.

"What it made me realize was how vulnerable all black men are, how vulnerable all people of color are and all poor people to capricious forces like a rogue policeman," Gates said of the incident in an interview with CNN Wednesday.

Police Backs Up Sergeant

"The actions of the Cambridge Police Department, and in particular, Sgt. Joseph Crowley, were 100 percent correct,'' said Hugh Cameron, president of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police. "He was responding to a report of two men breaking into a home. The police cannot just drive by the house and say, 'Looks like everything is OK.'

A police source told ABC News that Gates' front door showed marks from where a previous break-in had occurred a month or two earlier.

A high-ranking Cambridge police official, who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity because the department is under orders "from the mayor not to talk," said that Crowley followed standard operating procedure for a call of a burglary in progress.

"Let's face it," the official said. "This case has nothing to do with race. This is a man who has made some phone calls and the case went away. They treated him with kid gloves. Harvard University executives rushed to the police station to monitor the entire situation."

There are questions about the way the case was handled. David Frank, a former prosecutor and a writer for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, said it was "unusual" for a case to be "nul-processed" [charges dropped] without a court appearance. Gates was slated to be arraigned on disorderly conduct charges Aug. 26.

"Legally, the prosecution made the right call," Frank said. "The issue, though, is that if Gates were an electrician from Everett and not a well-known professor from Harvard, the reality is that in all likelihood he would have to defend himself against the charges in a courtroom.

A spokesman for Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone insisted that political influence did not play a role in the case.

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