Chief-Leader
September 21, 2015 5:15 pm

 

Blake: Mayor and Bratton ‘On Same Page’ on Force

Meet Over Cop’s Takedown

By MARK TOOR

Retired tennis star James Blake met last week with the Mayor and Police Commissioner and pronounced himself satisfied that he and the two officials “were on the same page” for dealing with excessive force by police officers.

Mr. Blake was rushed, knocked to the ground and handcuffed by Officer James Frascatore Sept. 9 as he stood outside a hotel on E. 42nd St. awaiting a ride to the U.S. Open. Mr. Frascatore had misidentified him as a suspect in a credit-card fraud.

Didn’t Report Incident

Some law-enforcement experts have asked whether the level of force used by Mr. Frascatore was justified and why he did not identify himself as a police officer, apologize when the arrest was found to be unjustified or report the incident to superiors.

Parts of that narrative have come in question in recent days. By the end of last week the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was pointing to new video and news reports that may show a more-cordial interaction between Mr. Blake and Mr. Frascatore after the mistaken arrest. The PBA also noted a report in the Daily Mail that Mr. Frascatore and his team had been warned that the credit-card gang could be armed with knives.

“This new information dem­onstrates the dangers of rushing to judgment before all the facts are in,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch, who has repeatedly called for a more measured approach in the face of editorials and opinion columns urging the firing of Mr. Frascatore.

“Now we have a more complete picture: the officers involved in the arrest were told that the suspect may be armed with a knife, the mistaken arrest of Mr. Blake was properly voided, and Mr. Blake and the officers shook hands before parting ways,” Mr. Lynch said in his statement Sept. 25.

“These are exactly the type of mitigating circumstances that can only be revealed after a full investigation. As we have said from the beginning of this case, the officer involved in this case deserves a fair assessment based on all the facts, not a knee-jerk summary condemnation.”

Shows a Handshake

A grainy video posted by the New York Post at http://goo.gl/6PNF6e purports to show Mr. Blake and Mr. Frascatore shaking hands. It was taken from a different angle than the one that showed Mr. Frascatore rushing Mr. Blake without warning, knocking him down and handcuffing him.

Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner William J. Bratton apologized to Mr. Blake within 24 hours of the incident. Officer Frascatore was placed on modified duty and stripped of his gun and badge. Mr. Blake, expressing concern that people who were not as prominent as he could be brutalized with impunity, requested a sitdown with Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton.

“I just had a very productive meeting with Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Bratton,” Mr. Blake said in an impromptu statement outside City Hall after the meeting Sept. 21. “The general theme was accountability with police officers in general. I feel like we made a lot of progress and we’re all pleasantly surprised. I feel like the whole team, both sides of the table, were on the same page, looking to move forward and turning a negative incident into a positive.”

Want ‘Lasting Impact’

“...We were talking about lasting impact,” he continued. “We’re not looking for a quick lawsuit, we’re not looking for anything that’s going to be a quick and easy solution. We’re looking for a lasting, positive impact on the city and on the police force.”

Of Officer Frascatore, Mr. Blake said, “In speaking with the Commissioner and with the Mayor, I understand the due process, the fact that he has rights in the court. I’m willing to respect that and I’ll be aware of how the trial and how the process takes place.” A week earlier, Mr. Blake had called for him to be fired, saying the cop didn’t deserve to wear a badge.

Mr. Blake’s lawyer, Kevin Marino, said, “We don’t have any disrespect for the officer’s due-process rights. We’re confident that the way this pro­cess works it will end correctly.” He added that “we’re satisfied” that Mr. Fras­catore will remain on modified duty until the process concludes.

Mayor de Blasio said in a statement, “This afternoon, we had a productive conversation with Mr. Blake about strengthening the relationship between police and communities across our city. It was based on a shared commitment to accountability and a desire to build trust. We pledged a fair and expeditious investigation into his case, and to find further common ground as we continue the work of reform.”

Mr. Marino said he would be meeting in a couple of days with Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter to discuss possibilities for reform.

Sought More Body Cameras

Mr. Blake was not specific about the reforms he was seeking. But he had said earl­ier he was hoping that more police officers would be equipped with body cameras more quickly, that the NYPD would strengthen penalties for police brutality and that funds would be made available to compensate civilians who were brutalized.

The PBA had no comment after the meeting.

The court proceedings referred to by Mr. Blake will likely be administrative in nature rather than criminal. While the IAB investigation proceeds, no charges have been filed against Mr. Frascatore by internal NYPD prosecutors. The New York Times has called for him to be fired, but Mr. de Blasio’s office responded that the officer has due-process rights.

Several experts on the NYPD were quoted last week as saying that the takedown of Mr. Blake was not enough to justify the firing of the officer. But, they said, he is facing other civilian complaints of excessive force, and substantiating any of those would add weight to the case for dismissal. His failure to report the incident would also count against him, they said.

Mr. Bratton declined to comment on possible discipline of Mr. Frascatore, no­ting he would play a role in deciding it. In fact, the Police Commissioner has the final say on discipline. He has the authority to accept the recommendation of an administrative judge, reject it entirely or impose a penalty.