Ex-tennis star James Blake: Fire NYC officer who tackled me
NEW YORK (AP) — Former tennis star James Blake, whose caught-on-camera takedown by a plainclothes New York City police officer prompted apologies from the mayor and police commissioner, told The Associated Press on Saturday that the officer who wrongly arrested him should be fired.
"I don't think this person should ever have a badge or a gun again," Blake, 38, said a day after surveillance video of the arrest outside a Manhattan hotel — and details about previous complaints over the officer's use of force — became public.
"I don't think it's too much to ask," he said.
Blake, who had been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, was misidentified by a cooperating witness as being part of a scheme to sell fraudulently purchased merchandise when he was tackled, police have said.
The arresting officer, James Frascatore, who has been with the NYPD for four years, has been named in several civil rights lawsuits alleging excessive force. He has also been the subject of four civilian complaints — an above-average number for NYPD officers, according to complaint data.
"I think that that kind of police officer tarnishes the badge, which I have the utmost respect for and I believe that the majority of police officers do great work and they're heroes," Blake told the AP. "So this person doesn't ever belong in the same sentence with the heroes that are doing the right kind of police work and keeping the public safe."
A message left at a number listed for Frascatore, 38, wasn't immediately returned. Officials have said he was exonerated of one civilian complaint, a second was unsubstantiated and he was sanctioned for not identifying himself in a third. The status of the fourth complaint was unclear.
A spokesman for his union did not return a message seeking comment Saturday. But on Friday, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Blake's arrest was made "under fluid circumstances where the subject might have fled, and the officer did a professional job of bringing the individual to the ground."
Police have said Blake had been mistakenly identified by "a cooperating witness" as being involved in a ring dealing in fraudulently purchased cellphones. They added that allegations of excessive force would be investigated by internal affairs.
The video, one minute in length, shows passersby on the street glancing over at the incident as it unfolded but not stopping. Only one person pauses to tell the officer something has dropped out of his pocket.
Blake, in a statement released through his lawyer Kevin Marino, said he believes the vast majority of police officers are dedicated public servants who operate appropriately, but what happened to him "is not uncommon."
Click through to see more shots of James Blake's career:
Frascatore has been placed on desk duty while internal affairs detectives continue their investigation. At issue is not only Blake's takedown but whether the use-of-force wasn't properly reported up the chain of command — leaving police brass to learn of it only after Blake spoke to the media.
But determining what discipline, if any, Frascatore could receive won't happen any time soon.
Depending on the results of an internal investigation, he could face departmental charges. If Frascatore chooses to fight those charges, he would do so in a departmental trial where he could face potential punishments ranging from a loss of vacation days to performance monitoring or other disciplinary actions.
Commissioner William Bratton, who earlier this week apologized personally to Blake, ultimately will decide Frascatore's fate.
A police spokesman declined to comment on Blake's remarks, saying the internal investigation is ongoing.
Blake said Saturday he was appreciative of Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio's apologies, as well as their invitations to discuss further policing issues, including the use of body cameras, training and ways to ensure more accountability.
But he also said he hoped others who have been wrongly arrested or mistreated by officers would receive the same treatment.
"I'm sure this isn't the first time police brutality has happened and I'm sure it's not the last time," he said. "So I want them to apologize to the people that this happens to that don't have the same voice that I have."