PUBLIC INFORMATION -- This is what can happen when police needlessly release only scraps of information rather than the actual records bearing on a controversial incident—until the predictable ignorance-based speculation forces an about-face.

It took more than a week to clarify that 911 caller Lucia Whalen never alluded to the race of the two men she saw struggling to open Harvard Professor Henry Louis Henry Gates' front door.  Even when pressed on this issue by the police dispatcher she contacted—just why has never been explained—she speculated only that one "might be" Hispanic.

Eight days after the incident, Cambridge's police officials and lawyers were still mulling whether it was safe for them to release the 911 call tape, after a Boston Herald poll showed 92 percent favoring that move.

Officer Crowley's handling of his encounter with Gates may not have been stupid, but it's hard to think of a better word for this delay.