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To live outside the law, you must be honest

September 26, 2009

I was reading another account of Bob Dylan’s recent run-in with the law and it occurred to me that his response to the situation was everything that the reaction of Harvard’s Professor Gates to his own was not: calm, polite, gracious and humble. (For a discussion of Prof. Gates’ arrest on SA, click here).

The facts leading up to the two encounters were quite similar.

A New Jersey couple called the police to report a drenched, “eccentric-looking old man” who was looking in the windows of a for-sale house in the pouring rain. The officer who responded asked Bob who he was, he told her and she did not believe him. She asked why he was there and he said he was on tour with John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson, she asked for ID but he did not have any (he’s Bob Dylan after all). She ended up putting him in the patrol car and driving him to where he said his tour buses were parked where his entourage claimed him. All accounts were that Bob was more than cooperative:

“He was really nice, though, and he said he understood why I had to verify his identity and why I couldn’t let him go,” Buble said.

My point is this: congeniality goes a long way. Bob Dylan had every reason to expect that the police officer would recognize him (more so than Gates). But rather than throw a hissy fit a la Professor Gates, he cooperated. The result was a quick resolution to the ordeal. I have a healthy libertarian streak myself, but it is too easy to criticize the police (or whatever the relevant authority may be) and overlook the fact the other party is being asinine.

(Originally posted at Southern Appeal)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. inthealley permalink
    September 27, 2009 7:54 am

    Some time back, in the 80s in England, Bob went into a cafe in North London and asked for a Scotch. He was refused on the grounds that, at that time, the law forbid the purchase of alcohol between certain hours on the sabbath. The waitress explained this to Bob, who accepted the refusal philosophically. His minder, however, decided to make a fuss, and Dylan asked him to desist. He didn’t, and the pair left. Bob subsequently dispensed with the services of the said minder ….

    • underdogsoldier permalink*
      September 27, 2009 9:48 pm

      Shakespeare(?),
      Mr. Dylan seems refreshingly uninterested in using his stardom to garner special treatment.

  2. Phil T. Listener permalink
    September 27, 2009 10:49 am

    Clearly Dylan was cooperative and congenial, however I have to disagree with your statement:
    “The facts leading up to the two encounters were quite similar.”

    I am not condoning the response of Prof. Gates, and believe he overreacted. But being inside one’s own home and having this type of encounter as opposed to being on the street of a strange town are two completely different circumstances.

    One thing I strongly believe – A person’s home is their castle and refuge. Clearly Prof. Gates was “living outside the law, and being honest”.

    • underdogsoldier permalink*
      September 27, 2009 9:46 pm

      Point taken Mr. Listener, however the police were protecting Prof. Gates’ house (esponding to a call from a concerned neighbor) and we all know that “the cops don’t need you, and man they expect the same”

  3. justsayin permalink
    September 28, 2009 12:02 am

    The article claims Gates continued to upbraid the officer and followed the officer outside. That is when he was arrested.

  4. Jim Barnhart permalink
    September 28, 2009 9:45 am

    Since when are we required to carry identification? If you are not breaking a law the police have no right to detain you or ask for ID. Dylan may have been cooperative and in doing so he voluntarily gave up his civil rights.

    • underdogsoldier permalink*
      September 28, 2009 10:13 am

      Dylan may have given up some civil rights, but it helped an officer do her job (however musically challenged she may have been) and got on with his life without incident.
      Legally, in Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, the Supreme Court held that an officer can compel ID when the ID of the suspect is reasonably related to the purpose of the stop (i.e. Terry stop).
      My thought is that the call from Prof. Gates’ neighbors gave the police a reasonable suspicion that the person at the house is not supposed to be there which in turn justifies the officers’ reasonable attempts to dispel that suspicion. Asking Prof. Gates to identify himself is reasonably related to the purpose of dispelling the notion that he is not supposed to be there (i.e. that he is actually the homeowner).

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