Sgt. James Crowley, the Massachusetts officer who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., spoke briefly Monday at a convention of police officers in Long Beach where he was greeted with whistles and applause.
"My sole purpose for coming here is to reach out and sincerely thank you," said Crowley, who spoke at the biennial convention of the Fraternal Order of Police at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. About 3,500 people attended the event.
In an address that lasted less than one minute, Crowley said Gates' arrest and its aftermath have been difficult for his family and colleagues. "It is no exaggeration to say that it wouldn't be easy for me to handle this without . . . your overwhelming support," said Crowley, who later signed autographs and posed for photos.
Crowley's arrest of Gates on July 16 set off a national debate on race. Crowley is white and Gates black.
Early that afternoon, Cambridge police showed up at Gates' home, responding to a report of a possible break-in. Gates, 58, was inside the house after reportedly forcing open a stuck door.
According to his police report, Crowley asked Gates to step outside to talk, and Gates began screaming, accusing Crowley of being a "racist police officer."
Gates was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, a charge that was later dropped.
-- My-Thuan Tran