Experts panel to review events surrounding the arrest of black Harvard scholar

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New York, July 24 (ANI): Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Hass said that his department will select a panel of local experts and community leaders to review the events surrounding the arrest of Afro-American Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on July 16.

He said the panel's membership would be announced in the next few days.

While repeatedly expressing his regret over the incident, Hass also stood by police sergeant James Crowley, whom he described as a stellar member of the department. The white police sergeant who arrested Gates in his Massachusetts home is a police academy expert on understanding racial profiling. I don't consider him a rogue cop in any way," he said.

Haas said it would be a "mistake" not to take the opportunity to learn from the events of July 16 by appointing the panel and fully investigating the case.

"I have nothing but the highest respect for him (Crowley) as a police officer. He is very professional and he is a good role model for the young recruits in the police academy," said Lowell Police Academy Director Thomas Fleming, who is black.

On Wednesday night, President Barack Obama, who is a friend of Gates, criticized Crowley and the police department's handling of the case.

He said: "I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And number three - what I think we know separate and apart from this incident - is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact."

But on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the president was not calling the officer stupid, just remarking that cooler heads should have prevailed.

President Obama told ABC News earlier Thursday that he was "surprised" by the controversy generated by his comments.

"I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," the president said, arguing that Gates should not have been arrested.

Obama added that he has "extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do" and that it is his understanding that Crowley is an "outstanding police officer."

Crowley, 42, has maintained he did nothing wrong and has refused to apologize, as Gates has demanded. (ANI)

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