To all those who criticized the police officer who tackled and handcuffed former tennis pro James Blake in a case of mistaken identity, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association thinks you're an asshole. PBA President Pat Lynch has written one of his famous open letters, which begins, "If you have never struggled with someone who is resisting arrest or who pulled a gun or knife on you when you approached them for breaking a law, then you are not qualified to judge the actions of police officers putting themselves in harm's way for the public good."
Blake, who was once the 4th ranked men's player in the world, was handcuffed briefly last week when police officers mistook him for a suspect in a credit card fraud ring. The real suspect apparently bore a strong resemblance to Blake, and when a tipster pointed out Blake, thinking it was the suspect, a police officer rushed over and took him down.
It turned out that the officer, James Frascatore, has a history of civilian complaints and lying about his interactions with civilians. He has been placed on modified duty as Internal Affairs investigates.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton apologized repeatedly to Blake, stating, "This incident remains under investigation to determine what contributed to the errors made, who may be held accountable, and what we can learn to prevent these mistakes from being repeated in the future... we both stand ready to meet with Mr. Blake to further discuss these issues and initiatives."
This position upset Lynch, as did the editorials calling for Frascatore to be fired. The NY Times editorial board brings up Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who fatally choked Eric Garner: "New Yorkers deserve policing carried out with 'Courtesy, professionalism, respect,' painted on the sides of patrol cars. Officers Frascatore and Pantaleo make those words a farce."
Here's what Lynch, who blamed the execution-style killings of police officers last December on de Blasio, wrote in full:
To all arm-chair judges:
If you have never struggled with someone who is resisting arrest or who pulled a gun or knife on you when you approached them for breaking a law, then you are not qualified to judge the actions of police officers putting themselves in harm's way for the public good.
It is mystifying to all police officers to see pundits and editorial writers whose only expertise is writing fast-breaking, personal opinion, and who have never faced the dangers that police officers routinely do, come to instant conclusions that an officer's actions were wrong based upon nothing but a silent video. That is irresponsible, unjust and un-American. Worse than that, your uninformed rhetoric is inflammatory and only serves to worsen police/community relations.
In the unfortunate case of former tennis pro, James Blake, -- who was clearly but mistakenly identified by a complainant -- there certainly can be mitigating circumstances which caused the officer to handle the situation in the manner he did. Do they exist? Frankly, no one will know for sure until there is a full and complete investigation. That is why no one should ever jump to an uninformed conclusion based upon a few seconds of video. Let all of the facts lead where they will, but police officers have earned the benefit of the doubt because of the dangers we routinely face.
The men and women of the NYPD are once again disheartened to read another the knee-jerk reaction from ivory tower pundits who enjoy the safety provided by our police department without understanding the very real risks that we take to provide that safety. Due process is the American way of obtaining justice, not summary professional execution called for by editorial writers.
Patrick J. Lynch
Yes, if there's one thing Lynch is an expert on, it's inflammatory rhetoric.