Race Rage: President Calls Police Sergeant in Controversial Arrest

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CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- The President tried to quiet a storm Friday afternoon.  He told reporters he called Sergeant James Crowley to talk about the controversy surrounding the arrest of prominent black Harvard professor, Henry Gates.

Crowley says President Obama offended police when he accused the Cambridge authorities of having acted "stupidly."

"I was a little surprised and disappointed that the president, who didn't have all of the facts by his own admission, then weighed in on the events of that night and made a comment that, you know, really offended not just officers in the Cambridge police department but officers around the country," Sgt. James Crowley told CNN affiliate WHDH.

Friday afternoon, Mr. Obama said he talked with Crowley in a five minute conversation.  He said he told Crowley he knew he was an outstanding police officer and a good man and the conversation confirmed it.  He continued to say his choice of words contributed to the frenzy and he says both parties may have overreacted.

Wednesday night Obama waded into the story by answering a question about it during his news conference, he admitted that he "may be a little biased" because the professor, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is a friend. "I don't know all the facts," he added.

He said he did not know what role race played, but, "the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home."

Gates told CNN the experience made him realize "how vulnerable all black men are, how vulnerable all people of color are and all poor people to capricious forces like a rogue policeman -- and this man clearly was a rogue policeman."

Crowley, in the police report about the incident, accused Gates of refusing to cooperate with him and repeatedly accusing him of racism when he went to Gates' home following a report of a possible break-in on July 16.

Crowley said he tried to determine whether there was someone else at the home and wanted to ensure Gates' safety. But Gates told him "that I had no idea who I was 'messing' with," and was being so loud that he could not give pertinent information to the department when he was calling in.

Crowley's report said that when he asked to speak with Gates outside instead of inside the home, Gates at one point responded, "I'll speak with your mama outside."

Authorities have said they may release tapes of the officer calling in, in which Gates is heard in the background.

Gates' attorney Charles Ogletree told CNN the professor never made such a remark.

"This is not a Jeremiah Wright moment," Ogletree said, referring to Obama's former pastor who became the source of controversy when some of his remarks circulated online.

The full story will show that Gates did nothing wrong -- and that Crowley did not identify himself at first, Ogletree said.

Gates, in an interview Wednesday, said he "would be prepared to listen to (Crowley) if I were convinced that -- if he would tell the truth about what he did, about the distortions that he fabricated in the police report. I would be prepared as a human being to forgive him."

Crowley has said he will not apologize.

Gates was ultimately arrested for disorderly conduct and was released from police custody after spending four hours at the police station.

The department later dropped the charges.

Cambridge police commissioner Robert Haas said he "deeply regrets" the arrest but stands by the procedures his department followed.

In an interview with CNN, Haas said "I trust (Crowley's) judgment implicitly. He is a stellar officer."

He added that the department is "very proud about its diversity within this community and how hard we've worked over the years to build a strong, solid relationship (between) the department and the community."

Haas agreed with Crowley about Obama's remark. "I have to tell you the officers take that very personally and basically feel hurt by that comment. We truly are trying to do the best service we can to the community and sometimes we make mistakes, we're human. But we learn from those mistakes and we move on."

Numerous police officers, including African-Americans, have spoken up on Crowley's behalf and told stories of him as a good and fair officer. Crowley, who is white, had once been chosen by a black police officer to teach a course at a police academy on ways of avoiding racial profiling.

Obama, in the ABC interview, said, "I don't know all the extenuating circumstances, and as I said, I respect what police officers do. From what I can tell, the sergeant who was involved is an outstanding police officer, but my suspicion is probably it would have been better if cooler heads prevailed."

But Gates' legal team argues that authorities are misrepresenting the officer.

"I think you will be hearing much more complex and different perspective on him (Crowley) in the coming days and weeks," attorney Ogletree told CNN, adding that "he is well known among people, particularly young people, for some of his police practices."

He said Gates might sue the department and would bring forward witnesses who say they've had similar experiences with Crowley.

When asked for specific examples, Ogletree said only that they may come out in time depending on how the police department handles the situation moving forward.

Ogletree also said Gates is being misrepresented. "I think people who know him know that he's a man who is well regarded in the community, who has a great relationship with the police and is revered in his neighborhood, in Cambridge, and around the country."

         -- CNN's Joe Johns and Don Lemon contributed to this report.