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Blake Roughed Up By NYPD’s False Arrest: How Many Unknowns Had Similar Experiences?

September 17, 2015 by Herbert Daughtry

By now, I’m sure you’ve read or heard about the brutal false arrest of the world famous tennis player, Mr. James Blake, 35, by a white police officer named James Frascatore. Mr. Blake was standing outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, waiting for his car to take him to the U.S. Open for corporate appearances, when, suddenly, without warning or identification, he was hurled to the ground. He was handcuffed with his face down and his hands behind his back.

During the arrest, he did not resist. He identified himself. He even had his identification information around his neck. He inquired politely of the undercover detective, “What was going on?”

When it came to light that he was the wrong person, and that he was, in fact, who he said he was, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton apologized profusely. Mr. Bratton was quick to point out that the incident was not racially motivated. I know that Commissioner Bratton has been given credit for his policing expertise, but I didn’t know he was prescient or had the capacity of reading people’s minds and motives. The fact of the matter is, the Commissioner found out about the arrest when the rest of us did via the news sources.

As the history of Officer Frascatore came to light, it was revealed that he was a defendant in four ongoing civil cases, charging him and other officers for use of excessive force during false arrests. He also had at least four complaints lodged against him with the Complaint Review Board.

There are four scenarios we should consider.

1) Let us suppose Mr. Blake was an ordinary, unknown Black man. Would there be this kind of media attention?

2) Let us suppose Mr. Blake fought back. In the way he was arrested without identification by the officer, it would have been instinctive to start swinging, pushing, or doing something to protect oneself. Is there anyone who doubts what would have happened? The officer would have intensified his force, and maybe, even used a chokehold. Or, if he could reach his weapon, he would pull the trigger with the possibility of killing or wounding Mr. Blake.

3) Let us say that the officer succeeded in making a call for help. Multiple police officers would have arrived on the scene in seconds, asking no questions, but assaulting Mr. Blake, as is their custom, with the possibility of also using deadly force. Now, should that have happened, Mr. Blake, consistent with prior history of police interaction with citizens, would have been accused of resisting arrest. If he survived, he might have ended up in jail. If he died, he would have been accused of attacking officers. Or, they may have even found a gun, a knife, or some shiny object. He might even have been accused of a crime.

4) To take the scenario further, suppose there were no cameras? If he had lived, it would have been Mr. Blake’s word against the police officers. And, again, given past history, who do you suppose the public would believe? If he had died, his death would be justified, and it would have simply been another innocent Black man assaulted, killed, or falsely arrested.

The scenarios depicted above in various ways have happened God only knows how many times. Of course, the world knows about Mr. Eric Garner. He was forcibly taken to the ground and died from a chokehold. I hope that the Blake incident, along with countless other similar incidents, which are increasing as the days go by, reveal what many of us have been informing the world for a number of years, and awaken and compel the public to take action against police misconduct.

Thank God for social media! There’s nothing new about the plethora of revelations of police disrespect, brutality, and killings. If there was no social media, the overwhelming majority of the public would have claimed ignorance or disbelief.

It bears a striking similarity to the savagery of the segregated South. Books, movies, artistic expressions, and personal experiences told the story of southern vicious barbarism. The dogs and fire hoses which were let loose on children in Birmingham, AL in 1963, and the vicious beatings on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL (on what has come to be called “Bloody Sunday) painted a picture that could not be denied. It forced President John F. Kennedy to make a statement, and President Lyndon B. Johnson to echo the song of the Movement, “We Shall Overcome,” in the Congress, and more importantly, pass the Voter Rights Bill.

So far, I am pleased with the statements attributed to Mr. Blake. He said that the reason he did not resist or fight back, he thought Officer Frascatore was coming to give him a friendly hug or some other “positive expression.” On Monday, September 14, 2015, in an article written by Ms. Katie Reilly in the Daily Challenge, Mr. Blake is quoted saying, “To be a police officer, you’ve been given a lot of rights and you’re given a certain power. To abuse them is just wrong. If you have someone out there that’s having this kind of rogue justice, they’re tarnishing the image, and they don’t deserve to be in the same sentence of the heroes of the NYPD. They don’t deserve to have that badge.”

Mr. Blake also said he plans to meet with Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton, regarding how police officers use force. He is still leaving the possibility open of suing if there’s no change, and he recognizes that he’s given a voice because of who he is.

Ms. Donna Lieberman and Mr. Christopher Dunn, in a Daily News article written on September 16, 2015, made the same point: Would the same attention and treatment be given to the victim of police excessive force if he or she were unknown? They wrote that the NYPD has “no comprehensive system for collecting information about police officers’ use of force, much less for reporting such incidents to the Department’s leadership, and to the public.”

They go on to say that surely there are innumerable encounters where the police force wasn’t recorded. When it is, there is no system to collect and report. They suggested a solution: “Require every NYPD officer who uses force against a person, no matter the circumstances, to report in writing that use of force and the details of the incident. Information from those reports must then be entered into a centralized database, which must be made available to NYPD leaders, elected officials, advocacy organizations and the public.”

I long to see the day when the criminal justice system, particularly the police, will live up to their responsibility. I’ve been in the ministry for 55 years, and it has been one of my major issues and struggles. Sadly, and yes, angrily, I sometimes wonder how many people would still be alive today. How many mothers would still have their sons, and in some instances, daughters; and, how many fathers would be around to raise their children had the public listened to us years and years ago?