At a noon press conference today, Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy announced the formation of a committee to evaluate the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"Today is the day to move forward," said Healy. "And the city has taken significant steps toward that end. Last Thursday, [it was] announced that a group of nationally recognized experts would be organized to help us determine what lessons could be learned from that incident."
Healy went into more detail on the committee, which "will not be conducting an internal investigation, nor will it make an official judgment on any of the conduct of the officers in the department...the mission of this committee is larger than a mere investigation into the events of July 16th. [Its purpose is] to develop recommendations that the department can use as guidance in the future."
Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum and who Healy described as "no stranger to Cambridge," is going to chair the committee.
Healy also said that the city "can't move forward if there's any lingering doubt that anything is being hidden," giving the basis for releasing the 911 telephone call that sent the police to Gates' house as well as radio dispatches made during the event.
New information released today raises questions about whether the 911 call was racially motivated or not. The caller was a Portuguese woman who allegedly did not identify the race of the two men at Gates' house in her call. Her lawyer, Wendy Murphy, was asked by a Fox News anchor this morning if the client herself is white. "It depends on how you define white," Murphy responded. "Her skin is olive. She is of Portuguese descent."
Echoing Obama's remark that the episode could be a "teachable moment," Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons said at the press conference that "this has been a trying time for Cambridge...my hope and expectation is that these events will serve as a catalyst for important discussion." She went on to say that she has "sincere hope that the people of Cambridge will ultimately walk away from this experience healthier and more empathetic as a city."
Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said that "this matter is not resolved. If you listen to the city manager, if you listen to the mayor, we have a long way to go."
"We always reassess what we did," said Haas. "And the first question I always ask myself is if I had to do it over again, what would I have done differently?" He did not give an indication whether this is one of those cases where he would have acted diffferently, however. In the past, he said that arresting officer Sergeant James Crowley acted in a manner "consistent" with his training and department rules.
As for the possible impending meeting of Obama, Crowley, and Gates at the White House, Healy said "I hope they enjoy their beer." When a reporter asked when that might happen, Healy responded, "I'm not involved in scheduling the President."