Do you remember that NYPD officer who tackled the tennis star near Grand Central Station in 2015? It was explained away as a case of mistaken identity. The tennis star was James Blake and he was standing peacefully on a Midtown Manhattan sidewalk minding his own business. Blake was waiting outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel for transportation to the National Tennis Center in Queens. Out of nowhere, Officer James Frascatore tackled and body slammed the tennis pro mistakenly believing he was part of a credit-card-theft ring.
I get it. The officer doesn’t watch tennis. He doesn’t know who’s who in the tennis world. That is understandable. On top of that, according to the stereotype, all black people look alike. The officer can’t be blamed for that mistake. Apparently, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill felt the same way when he handed down Frascatore’s “punishment” in February. That punishment was leaked this month to news outlets and Blake is more than disappointed in how the case was handled.
According to the Chief Leader, section 50-a of the State Civil Rights Law prohibits police departments from publicizing disciplinary records or other documents that could affect an officer’s employment, unless a judge approves the release.
That didn’t stop the NYPD officer’s discipline from being leaked to the public. The officer reportedly had five vacation days taken away, a penalty the man he jumped said was “indicative of a broken disciplinary system.”
The Civilian Complaint Review Board reviewed the case and recommended that the officer lose 10 vacation days in the incident but apparently the “Commish” felt the punishment didn’t meet the harshness of the crime and cut it in half. O’Neill however, was not able to provide a basis for the leniency afforded the officer.
The encounter sparked heavy outrage online during an anti-police brutality climate that continues to fester. The actions of the officer were even more egregious because Blake was innocent and a black man seemingly accosted for no reason by a white police officer.
Blake received an immediate apology following the incident… something Charles Kinsey did not receive after being shot by Miami Beach police. Following the incident, the tennis pro partnered with the city to to fund a special fellowship position with the CCRB. Upon hearing the disciplinary measures taken against Frascatore, Blake admitted to being disappointed in the lack of real accountability.
“The lack of meaningful discipline for the NYPD officer found guilty of using excessive force against me, while I was simply waiting outside of my hotel, is indicative of a broken disciplinary system,” he said in a statement issued through Communities United for Police Reform.
“Officer Frascatore had a record of misconduct complaints for the abusive treatment of civilians before he body-slammed me – it was reported that he had five civilian complaints within seven months of 2013. Losing a few vacation days for the use of excessive force, following a history of repeated civilian complaints, is not meaningful discipline.”
“It is this continued failure of the NYPD’s disciplinary system that perpetuates police abuses, brutality and misconduct, and leads to the unjust killings of civilians. Until the de Blasio administration addresses the dysfunction in police accountability and transparency, the problems of abusive policing will remain.”
“Far from serving as a deterrent, a trivial penalty of that type would seem to be encouraging those inclined toward excessive force to go right on doing it,” Mr. Blake’s lawyer, Kevin Marino, told the Daily News.
Frascatore testified in September, “I was running to get across the street as quickly as possible for the element of surprise. I wanted to get control of the subject first. I was concerned about getting into an altercation in front of all that glass…Another concern I had was a foot pursuit on 42nd St. with all that vehicular and pedestrian traffic.”
These were the reasons he gave as to why he never identified himself as an officer when pouncing on Blake. It wasn’t until after he placed the cuffs on Blake did he identify himself as a cop.
According to Blake, Frascatore was not the only one who failed to identify themselves. Four or five officers present failed to identify themselves as well. Out of that group, only one apologized and it wasn’t Frascatore.
The NYPD issued a statement saying, “Following the public disciplinary trial of Police Officer James Frascatore, the Police Commissioner finalized the case, consistent with the findings and recommendations of the Trial’s Commissioner. The NYPD is precluded from providing disciplinary records because of the strict limitations created by State Civil Rights Law 50-a.
“The NYPD and Police Commissioner have continually and forcefully called for changing the State Civil Rights law, which explicitly prohibits the release of disciplinary records of uniform state and city agencies.”
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which had defended Mr. Frascatore in the past, had no comment on the reported penalty.