Chief-Leader

October 8, 2017

Accused Cop Sues City, Blake for Demonizing

‘Portrayed as a Racist’

JAMES FRASCATORE: The best defense a strong offense?
JAMES BLAKE: Has tables turned on him.
JAMES P. O’NEILL: Hasn’t decided on punishment.

NYPD Officer James Frascatore sued the city and retired tennis star James Blake last week, maintaining that city officials had discriminated against him because he was white while casting him as a racist for his takedown of retired biracial tennis star James Blake.

The suit also named HarperCollins, the publisher of Mr. Blake’s recent book, “Ways of Grace,” which includes a discussion of the incident with Mr. Frascatore. The athlete and the publisher “labeled [Mr. Frascatore] as a racist, who engaged in racial profiling, unconstitutionally targeted specific demographics, used excessive force and lacked accountability,” the suit said. “All of these claims are false.”

Also Suing CCRB

Also named is the Civilian Complaint Review Board, for allowing an employee to leak information about the officer’s record of complaints, which violated Section 50-a of the state Civil Rights Law. That section requires that disciplinary information about cops be kept secret.

Mr. Frascatore, 40, just completed a departmental trial in which the CCRB prosecutor said he had used excessive force when he charged at Mr. Blake, 37, and brought him to the ground in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East 42nd St. two years ago. Police mistook the athlete for a member of a credit-card-fraud ring.

Officers realized their mistake within 10 to 15 minutes and freed Mr. Blake, who had been waiting for a lift to the U.S. Open. But surveillance video of the incident (which is online at goo.gl/dsTN8o) inflamed the feelings of many New Yorkers at a time of sensitivity to instances of abuse of men of color by white police officers.

The CCRB prosecutor recommended at the end of the administrative trial Sept. 26 that Mr. Frascatore be adjudged guilty and lose 10 vacation days.

Blake Wants Him Gone

Mr. Blake, on the other hand, has called for him to be fired. The athlete said that if the video did not exist and that if he was not wealthy and prominent, the department would have dismissed his complaint.

Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill will have the final word on Mr. Frascatore’s guilt or innocence and on what penalty, if any, is imposed. There is no deadline for him to decide.

“In portraying plaintiff as a racist [during the discipline process, the CCRB and the NYPD] have intentionally discriminated against [Mr. Frascatore] on the basis of race,” the suit charged.

It said that just before the takedown occurred, Mr. Frascatore was presented with a photo of the leader of the fraud ring that bore “a striking resemblance to the way Defendant Blake appeared that day.” He was also warned that members of the ring might be armed with knives and was ordered to arrest the leader immediately.

After the arrest, Mr. Blake addressed Mr. Frascatore as “Officer,” the suit said. When Detectives determined he was the wrong man, they and Mr. Frascatore “personally apologized to Blake and explained the mistaken identification,” the suit said. “At the conclusion of the encounter, Blake and [Mr. Frascatore] shook hands and patted each other on the back. All seemed forgiven.”

Blake’s Counter

Mr. Blake’s testimony at the administrative trial contradicted this account. He said he was confused when Mr. Frascatore tackled him. He maintained that none of the four or five officers identified themselves and that only one apologized, and it wasn’t Mr. Frascatore.

“He never said ‘NYPD,’’’ Mr. Blake said. ‘He never said ‘officer.’ He never said ‘freeze,’ like you see in the movies.”

Mr. Frascatore told the New York Post last week that he’d do it again the same way. “People need to realize that, with the information I had at the time and the circumstances that presented themselves, it was the right call,” he said. “I have a family to go home to. I’m on a crowded sidewalk, with a possibly armed suspect in the middle of 42nd St. You have to take control of the situation. I can’t just be pulling out my gun.”

The suit said that recriminations started immediately. “Top NYPD supervisors, including the Police Commissioner…rushed to blame [Mr. Frascatore] for the failures of his superiors and what amounted to an unfortunate mistake,” it said.

Failed to Tell Supervisors?

The Commissioner at the time, William J. Bratton, and his aides criticized Mr. Frascatore “not for his tactics, but for his perceived lack of manners and his alleged failure to advise superiors of a celebrity-involved incident,” the suit said. The suit maintained that supervisors were notified about the voided arrest of Mr. Blake.

Mr. Frascatore was placed on modified duty without his badge or service weapon.

The suit outlined the effect of the case on Mr. Frascatore and his family. He “has been cast as a racist and a goon,” it said. “....this public perception has not only led to his family fleeing their home in fear as a result of public threats to their safety, it has ruined a good man’s career, name and reputation. Even if he only stands to lose vacation time as a result of the disciplinary process, he faces a significant diminution in his long-term prospects for better assignments, promotion and recognition…”

‘Kids Were Terrified’

“Plaintiff’s young children had to be escorted onto their school bus and were terrified to leave the house,” the suit said. His marriage also suffered, it said.

The suit complained about “a years-long pattern of false and defamatory statements made by [Mr. Blake] and the NYPD following Blake’s mistaken and brief detention…during a serious police investigation.”

Despite the purported apologies, “Blake continues to this day to paint [Mr. Frascatore] as an out-of-control and corrupt officer who has no business being a member of the NYPD,” the suit said. “...Indeed, Blake has recently embarked on a worldwide press junket to promote his new book, the foreword of which perpetuates his false statements.”

The suit characterized the CCRB leak about Mr. Frascatore’s complaint history as “an unauthorized release of his private personnel information, a violation of New York State civil-rights law for which no one has been held accountable.” The employee who leaked the information was forced to resign.

‘Portrayed as Thug, Racist’

The suit referred to a segment of the surveillance video published by The Post, which it said showed Mr. Blake and Mr. Frascatore shaking hands and patting each other on the back. The video (which can be viewed at goo.gl/GXNv3v) is fuzzy and the faces are not recognizable.

While Mr. Frascatore “was finally revealed not to be the thug and racist portrayed by defendants, defendants still failed to adjust their false narrative,” the suit said.

The suit asks for compensatory damages from all defendants, as well as punitive damages to be paid by HarperCollins and Mr. Blake for “far in excess of $75,000.” It also wants a retraction and apology from the publisher and Mr. Blake. The suit said a previous agreement between Mr. Blake and the city holds city employees harmless from punitive damages.