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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley received a standing ovation from thousands of police officers Monday as he opened a five-day Fraternal Order of Police convention with brief remarks.

Crowley, who is white, sparked a national debate on race relations and policing when he arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. for disorderly conduct at Gates’ home in Cambridge, Mass. Gates is black.

More than 3,000 police officers cheered Crowley when he spoke at the Long Beach Convention Center. Dozens left their seats to take snapshots of him as he stood at the podium.

“The past month has been very difficult for my family, my friends and my colleagues back in Cambridge, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it wouldn’t be as easy for me to handle this without the support from the Fraternal Order of Police … and the support that the men and women who do this job have given me,” he said. “Thank you very much.”

Crowley declined to comment further after leaving the stage.

Crowley arrested Gates on July 16. The officer was first to respond to the home the renowned black scholar rents from Harvard University, after a woman reported seeing two men trying to force open the front door. Gates said he had to shove the door open because it was jammed.

He was charged with disorderly conduct after police said he yelled at Crowley, accused him of racial bias and refused to calm down after Crowley demanded Gates show him identification. The charge was later dropped, but Gates demanded an apology and called the incident racial profiling.

Crowley has said he followed protocol and responded to Gates’ “tumultuous behavior” appropriately.

President Barack Obama further inflamed the debate when said at a nationally televised news conference that Crowley had “acted stupidly.” Obama later invited Gates and Crowley to the White House for a beer to bring all three men together.


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