September 21, 2015 5:15 pm


Lynch Lashes Out At ‘Ivory-Tower Pundits’ Seeking Cop’s Firing


PATRICK J. LYNCH: Pundits shouldn’t judge cops.  
ELI SILVERMAN: Too early to make judgment.  
EDWARD D. MULLINS: ‘Looks bad, but hear other side.’  
JAMES BLAKE: ‘Cop shouldn't wear badge again.’  

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch last week fired an angry broadside at “arm-chair judges” in the news media who called for the firing of Police Officer James Frascatore for his tackle and mistaken arrest of retired tennis star James Blake.

The Sergeant’s Benevolent Association and a noted criminologist from John Jay College of Criminal Justice agreed with the PBA that critics should wait for the NYPD to finish investigating the incident before coming to conclusions about the apprehension of Mr. Blake as he stood outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel next to Grand Central Station.

Times: Fire Frascatore

“Yes, they can start by firing him,” the New York Times editorial page said of Officer Frascatore on Sept. 15, six days after the takedown, which was based on a mistaken identification by a witness and an Instagram photo of a “suspect” who turned out not to be involved.

The Times said that Officer Frascatore “has disgraced the department” and that Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner William J. Bratton “need to make an example of him.” It also said those officials needed to explain, “Why shouldn’t Officer Frascatore be arrested for assault?”

The Daily News editorialized Sept. 14 that surveillance video of the incident “all but convicts Officer James Frascatore of using grossly excessive force on the former tennis star.” His only hope of escaping punishment, the editorial continued, was “to convincingly explain that he had good reason to believe he was arresting an armed and dangerous man.”

An Impossible Task?

It then stated this would be impossible, because the officer’s team was investigating credit-card fraud, “not a gun bust,” and because Mr. Blake was standing peacefully on the sidewalk.

Shortly after the incident, Mr. Lynch issued a statement urging people to wait for the results of the police investigation before coming to a conclusion about what occurred. Mr. Bratton and Mr. de Blasio did not wait; Officer Frascatore was placed on modified duty almost immediately and the pair apologized to Mr. Blake.

The newspapers did not wait either, leading the clearly frustrated union leader to issue an open letter the day the Times editorial came out, criticizing “the knee-jerk reaction of ivory-tower pundits.”

“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,” Mr. Lynch said in the letter.

‘Uninformed, Inflammatory’

“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,” the letter continued. “That is irresponsible, unjust and un-American. Worse than that, your uninformed rhetoric is inflammatory and only serves to worsen police/community relations.”

The PBA leader added, “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.”

SBA President Edward D. Mullins said, “It’s hard to second-guess what people are doing in the street. On the surface it looks bad, but we don’t know what the officer was told about the suspect’s background.”

He said that Mr. Blake, the Mayor and the Police Department have aired their position in the media, “but we need to see what the other side of it is.”

Mr. Mullins said that he during his career he had been in the situation of arresting the wrong man. “You do the paperwork, void the arrest, explain what happened,” he said. “Maybe offer the guy a ride.” In the Blake case, Officer Frascatore was faulted for not identifying himself as a police officer, not apologizing and not reporting the incident to superiors, as he was required to do.

‘Depends on Perception’

Eli Silverman, a Professor Emeritus at John Jay who has consulted for police departments around the world, agreed it was premature to judge whether Officer Frascatore had acted properly when he tackled Mr. Blake.

“A lot depends on the circumstances,” he said in an interview. “We don’t know what he was told about the suspect or what his perception of the danger was. It’s sort of early to make a judgment.”

Mr. Silverman said Mr. Frascatore’s record and this arrest in particular should be examined in detail. Until the NYPD completes its investigation, he added, no one knows enough about the incident to decide whether the officer should be fired.

Mr. Blake, who is biracial while Officer Frascatore is white, initially said he was less concerned about any racial implications than about the issue of police brutality.

Blake: Should Be Gone

His rhetoric hardened Sept. 12, when he told the Daily News, “I want him to know what he did was wrong, and that in my opinion he doesn’t deserve to ever have a badge and a gun again, because he doesn’t know how to handle that responsibility effectively. He doesn’t deserve to have the same title as officers who are doing good work and are really helping keep the rest of the city safe.”

Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton have accepted Mr. Blake’s request to meet with them to discuss excessive force by police officers. The meeting occurred as this newspaper went to press Sept. 21.

“Blake is in a good position right now to be part of the solution because of his celebrity status,” Mr. Mullins said. “I think there’s an opportunity to make things better.”