James Blake and His Evil Innocent Twin

Some have questioned what the big deal is with a NYPD detective’s take down of tennis star James Blake.  Now that the video has been released, two points are raised by those inclined to trivialize the incident.

In his description in the Daily News, he said that the officer who rushed him was wearing shorts, and as the video shows, he was not. Aha, he’s lying. Except that this detail is irrelevant to what transpired, and a guy who, out of the blue, gets taken down sometimes misperceives details.  There’s a video. The core description is not merely intact, but conclusively proven.

The next challenge is that he wasn’t exactly “slammed to the ground,” as in a pile-driver type WWR move. Yet again, the video shows what happened, and even though police-defenders can claim they got a different impression from the description, that’s a problem with their imagination based on the description. It doesn’t change that he was rushed, grabbed, spun immediately to the ground face down, and cuffed.

Yet, the reason apologists seek to trivialize the James Blake takedown, adding to their litany of excuses, is that it wasn’t as if the detective, James Frascatore, beat him, but just “subdued the suspect.”  What’s the big deal, you buncha cop-hating whiners?

The big deal, if that’s the way one needs to describe it, is that we are able to see what transpired with the clarity of seeing how everyday, banal police handle everyday, banal police work.  And we know, because it’s James Blake, that not only were the police wrong about their perp, but that Blake did nothing to cause the police to act the way they did.

Much as constitutional rights are usually vindicated on the back of some particularly nasty miscreant, our vision of cops in action is clarified on the back of some particularly innocent person. James Blake is such a guy.

The message here isn’t deep. It isn’t hard to grasp. It requires no special knowledge of police work to see.  There was Blake, leaning against the Grand Hyatt Hotel’s entrance, minding his own business.  No hint of a threat to even the most delicate cop’s eyes.

Assuming, arguendo, that there was cause to suspect him of being engaged in credit card fraud, which by no stretch of the imagination is deemed a violent crime, there is no conceivable reason why a couple of police officer could not approach this potential fraudster, tell him of their purpose and, assuming they were cavalier enough to arrest without any investigation, inform Blake that they were placing him under arrest.

Boom. Another fine piece of work by hero cops. Another bad dude in custody. The children are safe.  Instead, Frascatore made the split second decision (this is facetious, given that the cops had all the time in the world to decide how to handle this situation) to use force first.

No, Frascatore didn’t shoot him, beat him, kick in the head a few times for his obvious resisting (facetious, again).  But he chose force first. Without any justification, force.

And if Frascatore chose force first in his takedown of James Blake in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East friggin’ 42nd Street, Manhattan, with video rolling and a national press corps about to drop their load on the cops, what of the poor black kid on 125th Street?

When it was just a tossing for fun under stop & frisk, there were only the daily bruises and scrapes of hitting a brick tenement wall. When it was someone the cops actually thought did something, it was teeth to concrete with a boot on the neck.  And that’s if there was no resistance.

After the Blake “mistake” hit the fan, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton apologized because he hates when his cops get caught and it goes viral.  But within his apology was his excuse, that Blake was the “twin” of the real perp, the bad dude, so it’s understandable that they picked the wrong black man off the streets of Manhattan.

Whew.  Not only does this twist our focus away from the needless forceful takedown, but it makes Frascatore not look nearly as venal.

blake

Wow, they really do look alike. Except that guy on the right committed only the offense of looking a lot like James Blake, which was enough of a reason for some tipster to pass it along to the media, which dutifully spewed it out to the public.

This admission was tucked deep in a few stories about the case:

The team of officers, looking for suspects in a credit card fraud ring, were relying on a courier who identified Mr. Blake as one of the buyers, the police said. The officers also had an Instagram photo of someone believed to be involved. That person, who Mr. Bratton said looked like Mr. Blake’s “twin brother,” turned out to have no role in the scheme.

Now this man’s face is all over the internet, mostly mentioned with the words “suspect” and “theft.

It sucks to look like someone famous who was just mistakenly taken down by a cowboy cop.  Not only does this provide a clear view of the initial needless resort to force, but of the knee jerk effort to spin a myth to deflect focus on just how much of a fiasco this operation was.

Had it been someone of lesser stature, there would be the automatic revelations about his rap sheet, allegations of beating his wife and dog, rumors of meth in his veins, that would enable people to have a sufficient doubt that the police were totally in the wrong.

Here, the police were totally in the wrong. Thanks, James Blake, for taking the hit so the rest of us could see it so clearly.

20 thoughts on “James Blake and His Evil Innocent Twin

  1. Scott Morrell

    If this does not wake up the nation to the notion that ‘all police are saints,’ then nothing will. It is time for the Big Blue Curtain come down. It is time for the police union to not blindly defend every cop, no matter what the circumstances are.

    This take down was so egregious that it simply cannot be defended, like you aptly said.

    As a country, we need to be honest about the issues with police and not blindly defend them no matter what. Most police are noble and good people. However, like anything else in life, many are almost as bad as criminals, with the only differentiator being they have a badge.

    Let’s stop deluding ourselves and be honest that there is a racial issue that needs to be addressed.

    1. SHG Post author

      Most police are noble and good people.

      This is what prevents serious thought. Even after seeing what happened, you can’t bring yourself to write about it without (1) gertruding, and (2) devolving to the myth. What evidence to you have that “most police are noble and good people”? Are they not people, who can do good or bad at any given moment, or are they cartoon characters who are all good or all evil?

      If you, in the process of recognizing a problem, can’t bring yourself to overcome the bullshit, can you reasonably expect anyone else to do better?

      1. Scott Morrell

        I believe, maybe naively, that most people are decent. I can’t quantify ‘most,’ but it speaks for itself. Therefore, by deduction, what is left is a fair amount of people that are simply pathetic or evil.

        My point, which went unnoticed, was that there are still too many cops that are bad and I am tired of the defenders who defend with a blind eye all the time. These people are either ignorant or racist.

        This attack on Blake speaks for itself, and I wish all decent people and those who are in ‘the club’ for police, speak out against this. That is the only way we can start to mend fences and bring about real change in police procedures.

        The first step for all is to admit that the criminal justice system and law enforcement is of course biased. If we can just all admit this failing, only then can we make change.

        I hope I made my point more clear.

        1. SHG Post author

          Your point didn’t go unnoticed. It isn’t particularly controversial to recognize that there are bad cops. It was your need to Gertrude in the middle that was the only aspect of your comment that raised any need for a reply.

          You’re free to believe anything you want. That’s why religion exists. But to assert that most cops are noble is a factual assertion, and for facts, you need proof. Remember, this is a law blog, not r/feelz, where every belief matters.

  2. Taco

    Imagine if he had fought back against the assailant in the white shirt. Oh wait, that’s a cop?! How were we supposed to know?

        1. SHG Post author

          Well, at least it’s better than the commenters who use [email protected]. But then, I allow you to use ‘nyms, but I expect the courtesy of a real email so I can sell it to spammers and get RICH!!!

          I think maybe it’s time to make a new rule, legit email or comments get trashed, no matter what.

    1. Griffin3

      Or any of those random people walking in or out of the hotel. I conceal carry (well, in the real world, I don’t expect to get to NYC w/o an airline flight), and I’m still pretty decent with a spinning round kick. If I am in the motel lobby, and I see a guy getting mugged outside … I mean, if I was the guy coming out at 0:17, I would have an excellent opportunity to stop the mugging with a well placed kick before he reaches for the handcuffs, or generates any other possibly police-like behavior. Boom, interfering with an arrest, obstructing, assault, and that’s if I (and 3-5 assorted hotel guests) didn’t get ventilated by the wild spray of gunfire from the backup officers.

      I ask my 12yo son, who I just showed this video, should I ignore any mugging I see, because it might be related to some undercover police operation? Sucks to be you, granny, but this guy might be a cop: lemme wait to see if he’s just going to bash your teeth out and cuff you, or maybe go rooting around in your purse, before I rescue you. I’m just not wired that way; I don’t want to raise my kids to look the other way and walk on, but is that what we have to do to live to old age these days?

      [Finally, minor poke – but I am not impressed with Mr. Blake’s situational awareness. He’s looking right past the assailant as he runs up to throw him to the sidewalk. Anyone with any martial arts training at all would have stopped that guy with at least a knee block and stiff arm, if not thrown him to the ground. Maybe people in NYC just instinctively know that would result in a death blossom of NYPD bullets, and the reflex has been bred out of them?]

      1. Peter Orlowicz

        Maybe you’re not impressed with Mr. Blake’s situational awareness because you already know what’s coming next. Part of the whole point here is that Blake had nothing to do with the thing being investigated, and there was no reason for him to imagine that the guy running up to the hotel door was going to grab him and push him to the concrete. If that were me, I would more likely be thinking, “Poor guy, must have forgotten his ID at the front desk when he checked out, hope he doesn’t miss his flight.”

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  4. KP

    “Most police are noble and good people.”

    Absolutely not! The job does not call for noble or good people, it calls for people who will obey orders no matter what they think personally, who are happy to use violence in their everyday life and to kill other people if they think they should…. Oh, hang on, maybe I’m reaading the ad for ‘gangsters wanted’.

    After the people with the right mindset are selected, their skills in committing voplence on their fellow-men are increased and honed by training. Then their egos are boosted by their peers and further training to get the right reaction to ‘contempt of cop’.

    If you didn’t want to be a thug in the biggest gang you wouldn’t join the Police. The detective in this case displays it all.

    1. Scott Morrell

      Jeez! I should have preceded my comment “that most cops are good and noble people’ with the qualifier “I believe most……”

      I am in no way defending the status quo, nor believe that the police could do no wrong, like the unions would like us to believe, However, I do believe that most people are good. I could be wrong, but I like to live my life that way. If I took a more cynical approach, I could say most people are bad, and therefore the police needs to push their power around even more because their feeling would be “rather be safe than sorry.’

      I don’t like double standards or racial injustice. However, I know some NYPD cops personally and the ones I know are great people that really care about their jobs. I also know a few that a real dirtbags and the only thing separating them and criminals is their badge.

      1. SHG Post author

        You shouldn’t have felt the compulsion to Gertrude your point. You’re defending an indefensible position, which has zero do to with what you believe. It’s either a fact or its not; we don’t get to manufacture facts because we want to believe them to be true.

        What you’re not seeing is that this is a constant issue, qualifying a conclusion based upon a given fact so as to soften one’s position and not offend. You try to be on both sides of the fence. You can’t, and it doesn’t matter that you want to wrap your assertion up in a pretty bow of “I believe” when there is no evidence to support your belief. You’re free to believe in God, the tooth fairy and police nobility, but when you put it out there publicly, particularly as a needless qualifier that undermines the rest of your point, you invite people to challenge it.

        The point is that there was no need to say it in the first place. Ending this compulsion to qualify a fact is why your comment evoked such a response. Cops are human. Some are better than others, some are worse. This is inherent in being human and doesn’t require someone to qualify a wrong by saying “not all cops.” And all cops are human, which means they can do harm one moment and help the next. Just like all people.

        But you made a grand assertion, that *most* cops are *noble.* If so, prove it. Your belief proves nothing. And there was no reason for you to make this assertion in the first place. Let it go.

  5. JS

    “The big deal, if that’s the way one needs to describe it, is that we are able to see what transpired with the clarity of seeing how everyday, banal police handle everyday, banal police work.”

    I’ve been listening to people talk about this since it happened and it is so depressing to see how no matter what the police do a LOT of people, the majority probably, will make excuses for them. I’ve come to the conclusion that the American people are getting what we deserve. I’m not going to say it’s not the cops’ fault that they’ve morphed into a brutal occupying army but honestly, power corrupts and we, the American people have brought this on ourselves not only by giving them waaaaay too much power but by continually excusing their abuse of it.

    Maybe it’s not the corruption of the police we need to focus on but the recognition of the corruption of a nation that is pretty much ok with every police atrocity, from the Kelly Thomas murder to Freddie Gray to this. I’ve come to think the people that excuse this stuff are worse than the people who commit it.

    1. SHG Post author

      The willingness of people to rationalize away these needless pedestrian abuses (what Amy Bach called “ordinary injustice”) is what empowers police to perpetuate their belief that no matter what they do, the “good people” still support them. I would be more philosophical about people getting what they deserve, good and hard, except those of us who don’t deserve it get it as well.

  6. Cbf

    Follow-up investigation reveal Mr Blake had, in fact, exceeded his credit card limit on one occasion. Therefore the NYPD has determined the takedown and subsequent arrest was fully justified.

    1. Patrick Maupin

      Occam’s Razor says that, given the NYPD’s stock response to similar situations, the only likely correct interpretation of the lack of negative publicity about Mr. Blake is this:

      Mr. Blake has never had any problems with law enforcement, his credit card, his grandmother, his girlfriend, or that weird kid who sat behind him in 7th grade math.

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