James Blake has spoken out again following the release of surveillance video capturing his brutal run-in with a plainclothes New York police officer who had mistaken Blake for an identity theft suspect. The tennis pro is now calling for that officer to be fired. "I don’t think this person should ever have a badge or a gun again,” said Blake to the Associated Press, referring to the offending officer, James Frascatore, who has faced an above-average number of excessive-force complaints in the past. Blake continued:
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. 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.
As for whether or not Frascatore will indeed be fired over the incident, the AP notes that’s not likely to be resolved anytime 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.
In Frascatore’s defense, yesterday the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, New York’s police union, indicated that 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.”
Speaking of “fluid circumstances,” in an interview today with CNN, Blake also worried about what might have happened if he had reacted differently when confronted by Frascatore:
I think about how scary it would have been had I put my arms up and done the normal reaction of someone coming at you, to defend myself… If I had any sort of resistance, I wonder what could have happened, and if, instead of having a bump and bruise, I could have broken bones, a concussion, or worse.
Blake released a statement yesterday detailing his experience, as well as acknowledging and appreciating the apologies he has received from Commissioner Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio, while also insisting that their response be much more than words:
[E]xtending 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 neighborhoods where incidents of the type I experienced occur all too frequently.
Another important element of the story is that the suspect police mistook Blake for, who Commissioner Bratton said looked like Blake’s “twin brother,” ended up being innocent as well. So even if they had identified the right — but still wrong — man, what would have happened then? The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates has a theory:
It’s very easy to imagine the NYPD giving the same treatment they gave Blake to another innocent man. And then it’s worth asking whether an apology would be forthcoming from anyone, and whether any of us would be talking about this at all. When you have an incident like this it becomes a kind of spectacle, but to understand what’s really been driving the conversation the past few months, it’s essential to think beyond the celebrity factor. The question isn’t simply whether the NYPD treated Blake unfairly. It’s how many others are treated unfairly and written off simply as the cost of doing business.
As Blake told the AP, “I want them to apologize to the people that this happens to that don’t have the same voice that I have."