September 16, 2015 | 1:25am  

 

Condemning cops without all the facts is outrageously unfair

By Michael Goodwin

Bob Dylan’s haunting 1965 song “Desolation Row” begins with the line, “They’re selling postcards of the hanging.” It must have been the inspiration for Tuesday’s editorial in The New York Times.

Braying like a lynch mob, the ­paper demanded the firing of the cop who mistakenly tackled tennis star James Blake. And that was just a warm-up.

The Times also asked, “Why shouldn’t Officer [James] Frascatore be arrested for assault?”

Hell, why bother with an investigation, the facts, the presumption of innocence and due process? Let’s hang the racist bastard now!

The paper’s shameful attack included drive-by smears of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former top cop Ray Kelly for the unforgivable sin of making New York safe. It also concocted a link with the fatal Eric Garner case in 2014 to suggest the two incidents prove the NYPD is hopelessly brutal.

The Times’ inflammatory accusations are symbolic of the growing contempt for law enforcement on the fringe left. It’s more than simply refusing to give cops the benefit of the doubt. It’s an attitude that says all cops are guilty until proven innocent.

If you’re prejudiced against law enforcement, the Blake incident is an open-and-shut case of police brutality. A security-camera video of the scene outside the Grand Hyatt hotel on East 42nd Street shows Frascatore, a white, plainclothes cop, approaching Blake, throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him.

The silent video lasts only about one minute, and if that’s all you know and see, a rush to judgment is almost understandable. Blake, a biracial former tennis star waiting for a ride to the US Open tournament, did nothing wrong, yet didn’t get a chance to identify himself until he was on the ground in handcuffs.

But the more you know, the more complicated the case becomes. Start with the fact that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton immediately apologized to Blake.

And that the NYPD itself released the video and Frascatore was stripped of his gun and placed on modified duty — a move the police union criticized as “premature,” adding, “No police officer should ever face ­punitive action before a complete review of the facts.”

Yet, instead of citing those swift actions as proof of the city’s good faith, the cop-bashers cry for blood. The video is too good to waste and, with Blake giving interviews, the case has become fodder in the national campaign against police.

The mitigating facts include that a team of undercover officers was stationed near the hotel to bust a man accused of a scam involving phony credit cards. Just before four officers arrested the target, a courier from the company that made the complaint who was with the cops saw Blake and said Blake, too, had used the bogus cards.

The officers didn’t expect a second target, so they radioed Frascatore, who was serving as a lone backup across the street. They reportedly told him to arrest Blake and keep him from running. If he hadn’t been alone, Frascatore might not have felt the need to tackle Blake.

The two apprehensions, I am told, happened almost simultaneously, though little information has been distributed by the NYPD because it is still gathering the facts.

As soon as the cops realized that Blake was not who the courier said he was, they went into the hotel and arrested the second man, a Brit who happens to look remarkably like Blake. Not incidentally, Blake said he thought the case had nothing to do with race, though he, too, called for Frascatore to be fired.

Frascatore apparently never filed paperwork admitting his mistake, which he should have. And he might have been too aggressive in his takedown. He has been the subject of previous complaints and lawsuits, but he’s also regarded as a remarkable cop and certainly deserves the presumption of innocence.

Indeed, his biography paints him as a highly educated, exemplary officer. An insider tells me that in addition to a BA degree, Frascatore, 38, has a master’s degree in education and taught grammar school for four years. He was a decorated police officer in two Florida cities before entering the NYPD academy in 2010.

He clearly made a mistake, and might have crossed the line in the Blake case, but condemnation without the facts is outrageous. Or is simple fairness too much to ask if you are a cop?