Yonkers born former tennis pro whose caught-on-camera takedown by a plainclothes New York City police officer in a case of mistaken identity was embarrassed by the incident — and said he hopes the police officer involved never gets his badge back.
“It’s really infuriating to know that I was in such a vulnerable position, and I was taken advantage of by someone that wears the NYPD badge, and in my opinion tarnishes that badge,” said James Blake, who was tackled and handcuffed near Grand Central in Manhattan on Wednesday while waiting for a car to the U.S. Open.
“I don’t think this person should ever have a badge or a gun again,” Blake said a day after surveillance video of the arrest in front of the Grand Hyatt New York hotel in Manhattan and details about previous complaints over the officer’s use of force became public.
“I don’t think it’s too much to ask,” he said.
Blake, who had been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, was misidentified by a cooperating witness as being part of a scheme to sell fraudulently purchased merchandise when he was tackled, police have said.
The arresting officer, James Frascatore, who has been with the NYPD for four years, has been named in several civil rights lawsuits alleging excessive force. He has also been the subject of four civilian complaints — an above-average number for NYPD officers, according to complaint data.
“I think that kind of police officer tarnishes the badge, which I have the utmost respect for and I believe that the majority of police officers do great work and they’re heroes,” Blake told the AP. “So this person doesn’t ever belong in the same sentence with the heroes that are doing the right kind of police work and keeping the public safe.”
“Physically, I’m OK. The emotional scars are going to take a little more time to heal, because I was embarrassed,” he said. “I was embarrassed to be handcuffed, in the middle of the day, on 42nd Street.”
The encounter was caught on surveillance video and has prompted personal apologies to Blake from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton. But Blake doesn’t feel that that’s enough.
“It was completely unnecessary, whether I was a criminal or not,” he said. “I still don’t think the person they were looking for deserved to be treated the way I was treated. So that is the bigger issue right now, correcting that kind of behavior.”
A spokesman for his union did not return a message seeking comment Saturday. But on Friday, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Blake’s arrest was made “under fluid circumstances where the subject might have fled, and the officer did a professional job of bringing the individual to the ground.”
Frascatore has been placed on desk duty while internal affairs detectives continue their investigation. At issue is not only Blake’s takedown but whether the use-of-force wasn’t properly reported up the chain of command — leaving police brass to learn of it only after Blake spoke to the media.
But determining what discipline, if any, Frascatore could receive won’t happen any time soon.
Commissioner William Bratton, who earlier this week apologized personally to Blake, ultimately will decide Frascatore’s fate.
A police spokesman declined to comment on Blake’s remarks, saying the internal investigation is ongoing.
Blake said Saturday he was appreciative of Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s apologies, as well as their invitations to discuss further policing issues, including the use of body cameras, training and ways to ensure more accountability.
But he also said he hoped others who have been wrongly arrested or mistreated by officers would receive the same treatment.
“I’m sure this isn’t the first time police brutality has happened and I’m sure it’s not the last time,” he said. “So I want them to apologize to the people that this happens to that don’t have the same voice that I have.”