"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.'
"Sgt. Crowley was carrying out his duty as a law enforcement officer protecting the property of Professor Gates, and he was accused of being a racist," Cameron added. "The situation would have been over in five minutes if Professor Gates cooperated with the officer. Unfortunately, the situation we are in now is the environment police work in now."
Jim Carnell, a union representative for the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said cops are "furious at the way Crowley is being vilified."
"The officer's mindset when going in there is, 'Why was he breaking down the door?' Maybe there is a restraining order in place. Maybe Harvard University, who owns the house, changed the locks for some reason. The officer's job is to make sure everything is on the up-and-up,'' Carnell said.
"Mr. Gates should be grateful that the police responded and explained himself with some civil discourse," Carnell added. "It would have ended there. Instead, his arrogant, combative behavior gave the cops cause to wonder that something else was going on."
A police source told ABC News that Gates' front door showed marks from where a previous break-in had occured there 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 [E. Denise Simmons] 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."
"They let him off the hook," the official added. "The mayor threw the department under the bus. She might as well open the city's checkbook. ... If Professor Gates was poor, he'd be in a jail cell."
Massachusetts authorities, in dropping the disorderly conduct charges against Gates, called his arrest last week "regrettable and unfortunate."
"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 Cambridge Police Department spokeswoman Kelly Downes in a prepared joint statement by the city of Cambridge, the Cambridge Police Department and Gates.
But 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. He is now demanding an apology from Crowley instead.
"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.