[Update Below] Yesterday, after the NYPD released the intense surveillance video of plainclothes NYPD officer James Frascatore tackling retired tennis star James Blake to the ground last week, Blake vowed to turn the incident into an opportunity to address police brutality on a larger scale. "Extending courtesy to a public figure mistreated by the police is not enough," Blake said. "As I told the Commissioner, I am determined to use my voice to turn this unfortunate incident into a catalyst for change in the relationship between the police and the public they serve."
Below, you can read Blake's full statement:
Just before noon on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, while I was standing on a sidewalk outside my hotel in midtown Manhattan waiting for a car to take me to the U.S. Open, a plainclothes New York City Police officer tackled me to the ground, handcuffed me, paraded me down a crowded sidewalk, and detained me for ten minutes before he and his four colleagues realized they had the wrong man.
The officer, who was apparently investigating a case of credit card fraud, did not identify himself as a member of law enforcement, ask my name, read me my rights, or in any way afford me the dignity and respect due every person who walks the streets of this country. And while I continue to believe the vast majority of our police officers are dedicated public servants who conduct themselves appropriately, I know that what happened to me is not uncommon.
When this incident was reported in the news media, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton both called me to extend their personal apologies, and I greatly appreciate those gestures. But extending courtesy to a public figure mistreated by the police is not enough. As I told the Commissioner, I am determined to use my voice to turn this unfortunate incident into a catalyst for change in the relationship between the police and the public they serve.
For that reason, I am calling upon the City of New York to make a significant financial commitment to improving that relationship, particularly in those neighbourhoods where incidents of the type I experienced occur all too frequently. The Commissioner has agreed to meet with my representatives and me to discuss our ideas in that regard, and we very much look forward to that meeting.
Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton also released a joint statement late on Friday:
As conveyed by Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton previously, the City of New York extends deepest apologies to Mr. Blake. 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.
This Administration takes the mission of bringing the police and the community closer together very seriously. It is why the City has already invested nearly $29 million to retrain approximately 22,000 uniformed service members - with thousands more to be retrained in the coming months. It's why we have invested in new technology and developed new strategies that feature the most focused neighborhood policing efforts ever applied in a major city. And we are beginning to see results, with complaints to the CCRB down to the lowest levels in 14 years.
This Administration will continue to vigorously implement these reforms that build trust and respect between police officers and the people they serve, while also keeping New York City the safest big city in America. And we both stand ready to meet with Mr. Blake to further discuss these issues and initiatives.
According to the NYPD, Blake was mistakenly arrested on Wednesday by five detectives from the Identity Theft Task Force. The arrest was in regards to an ongoing investigation into the purchase of cellphones using "fraudulent cards." Blake was released from handcuffs after 15 minutes with a cut on his left elbow and bruises on his left leg. As you can see in the video below, Officer Frascatore was undeniably aggressive in the stop.
As the Daily News put it in an editorial today, "The video of James Blake’s mistaken arrest all but convicts Officer James Frascatore of using grossly excessive force on the former tennis star." Frascatore, an officer with a lengthy civilian complaint record, was placed on desk duty soon after the tackling incident on Wednesday.
"I don’t know what that dude’s problem is but I’m glad it finally came to somebody who someone would listen to," Warren Diggs, who sued Officer Frascatore for allegedly beating him in his driveway in 2013, told the Times.
Blake meanwhile was given a standing ovation at the U.S Open on Friday.
Huge ovation for James Blake at the Stan/Fed Semi-Final pic.twitter.com/oMYvir0CXl
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) September 12, 2015
Update: In an interview with the Post, Blake said he thinks Frascatore should be fired. "I don’t think he deserves to have a badge,” Blake said. "I hope he can never do that to anyone else and get away with it. I hope he can never do that again under the shield of the New York Police Department."
Blake, who added that he has the utmost respect for NYPD officers ("I would say 95 percent or greater are doing their job correctly"), added that Frascatore's record seems to indicate that this was no isolated incident: "It’s not his first brush with a civilian complaint. I don’t think this is his first time doing this. I don’t think this is one error in judgment. I think it’s a pattern and it needs to be corrected."