Retired tennis player James Blake testified yesterday (September 19) that New York Police Department (NYPD) plainclothes officer James Frascatore and his colleagues didn’t identify themselves before tackling him on a Manhattan sidewalk in 2015.
“He never said ‘NYPD,’ he never said ‘officer,’” said Blake, as quoted by The Associated Press (The AP), during the first day of Frascatore’s disciplinary hearing for the arrest. The New York Times reports that Frascatore, who is White, faces an excessive force charge from the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), which investigates police abuse accusations. The board advocates that NYPD commissioner James P. O’Neill fire Frascatore, who The Times reports is in an administrative position pending the outcome of the hearing.
The charge stems from a 2015 arrest outside a Midtown Manhattan hotel that was caught on surveillance video. As he repeated during the hearing, Blake, who is Black, said at the time that neither Frascatore nor the other cops identified themselves as police officers before violently arresting him. The Associated Press adds that Blake testified that Frascatore, who later realized Blake wasn’t his intended identity theft suspect but a former world-ranking tennis star, offered Blake a handshake.
Blake’s arrest and subsequent public comments about it drew international attention to racist police violence. Then-NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton apologized to Blake and promised an internal investigation, while rejecting critics’ accusations of racial profiling.
Blake struck a deal with the city in June, withdrawing his excessive force complaint in exchange for a new CCRB fellowship in his name. The selected fellow will focus on streamlining CCRB complaints from areas with high complaint rates and guide people who file complaints though the legal process.
NY1 News reporter Dean Meminger posted video of Blake’s post-hearing press conference, in which he advocated for Frascatore’s termination:
— Dean Meminger (@DeanMeminger) September 19, 2017
The hearing, which continues today (September 20), also marks the first time that Frascatore spoke on public record about the arrest. The AP reports that he testified that an unnamed superior pointed out Blake to him on the street and said he was the suspect in the identity theft investigation. Frascatore says that he then snuck up on Blake to introduce “an element of surprise” before taking him down with an authorized “arm bar” move and saying, “Police, don’t move.” Blake rejects that description, as well as Frascatore’s testimony that he later apologized to Blake.