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.
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.