Tennis Star James Blake’s Excessive Force Complaint Highlights Issues with Disciplining NYPD Officers

The Incident

Tennis Star James Blake’s Excessive Force Complaint Highlights Issues with Disciplining NYPD OfficersIn 2015, retired tennis champion, James Blake, was tackled to the ground by an undercover police officer, New York City Police Officer Frascatore, and falsely arrested in Midtown, New York.  Two years later, Mr. Blake finally saw the officer face days in a departmental trial for use of excessive force, 700 days after the accident took place. 

The incident occurred when Officer Frascatore mistakenly identified Mr. Blake as a potentially armed suspect in a credit card fraud ring.  Officer Frascatore, after spotting his suspect, was told to “move in” by his supervisor, and so, he charged across East 42nd Street and threw the unsuspecting Mr. Blake onto the pavement, holding him down and handcuffing him; he was only released when another officer realized they had the wrong person.  Mr. Blake said he walked away feeling dazed, confused and afraid.

Lengthy Delay in Police Department Disciplinary Action

The process of taking this case to departmental trial two years due to trial delays, and, now the trial is over, he will again have to wait for a long amount of time for the NYPD Police Commissioner to give a final ruling on the Frascatore’s guilt and punishment.  Sadly, this long delay in Police Department Disciplinary Actions is not uncommon, according to the New York Times. Among the 43 NYPD departmental trial cases that concluded this year, complainants had to wait an average of 454 days, approximately 15 months, for prosecutors and defendants to rest their cases at trial.  They then have to wait 201 days, seven months, for a final ruling.

Frequently, a long trial delay can work in a NYPD officer’s favor and be frustrating and difficult for complainants. The delay makes it more likely for witnesses and complainants to disappear due to financial or mental reasons, and often the cases go stale.  Mr. Blake points out “I’ve had a lawyer working on it for two years as opposed to most people who can’t afford to do that.  It can be considered a tactic for how these things don’t get settled at all.”

One of the reasons Mr. Blake’s case was delayed was due to an appeal by Jonathan Fogel, a prosecutor for the Civilian Complaint Review Board.  He recommended that Officer Frascatore forfeit ten vacation days as a punishment.  Mr. Blake said this would be inadequate for an officer who had a record of complaints that conveyed a pattern of violence towards black men.  Instead he called for Officer Frascatore to be fired.

Judge Invokes State Law To Keep NYPD Personnel Records Private

Shockingly, at the end of this process, Mr. Blake may not even be allowed to hear the details of Officer Frascatore’s punishment due to an expanded interpretation of a 50-a clause that bars the public from accessing NYPD Officers’ disciplinary records.  Commissioner Maldonado initially incited the 50-a clause so as to shield retired police instructor, Daniel Modell, from questions about his own disciplinary record, however this was challenged as his disciplinary record was important to his credibility as a witness.  So instead, Commissioner Maldonado closed the court to the public and allowed limited questions on Mr. Modell’s disciplinary record, barring the public from witnessing the case.  This clause also prohibits James Blake from hearing the details of Officer Frascatore’s punishment if it is anything short of being fired, which stops Mr. Blake from getting closure on this incident.

If you have been beaten up by NYPD cops and wish to discuss your right to sue them, please contact the attorneys at PetersonDellecave LLP.