Patrick Lynch, head of the New York City police union, unleashed a pointed letter on Tuesday, addressed to what he called “arm-chair judges” of the NYPD’s misidentifying, tackling, detaining and handcuffing of former tennis star James Blake.
Security camera footage of the incident revealed Blake leaning against a pillar and scrolling through his phone in front of his Manhattan hotel last week when a plainclothes cop barreled towards him, grabbed him forcefully by the shoulders, spun him around and slammed him onto the ground.
“It was definitely scary and definitely crazy,” Blake said. “To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is.”
Blake’s accusations and the release of the security camera footage have added fuel to the national conversation on police brutality that has reached a fever pitch over the last year following the deaths of Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and Freddie Gray — among others — in addition to the increased prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
But despite the fact that Blake — who was mistaken for a suspect in an identity-theft ring — did receive an unprecedented apology from the NYPD police commissioner William Bratton, Lynch is having none of the criticism that the media is levying at the police force.
“The men and women of the NYPD are once again disheartened to read another the knee-jerk reaction from ivory tower pundits who enjoy the safety provided by our police department without understanding the very real risks that we take to provide that safety,” Lynch said.
He also called the criticism of the NYPD based on the silent security camera footage “irresponsible, unjust and un-American.”
Blake, who was in town for the U.S. Open, has been very open about the incident with the media, deciding to use his voice and platform to shed light on excessive police force. After being thrown to the ground, Blake said that he was then handcuffed and surrounded by four other officers — all white — and then detained for 15 minutes, despite reportedly offering to show the officers his identification multiple times. Additional reports have revealed that the entire investigation was flawed; it turns out the suspect that the officers mistook Blake for wasn’t even involved in the case.
Officer James Frascatore, the officer who Blake to the ground, has been placed on desk duty, though Blake has called for him to be fired. The officer is a defendant in four other police brutality cases, raising the question as to why he was even in the field to begin with.
“I was just standing there. I wasn’t running. It’s not even close (to be okay). It’s blatantly unnecessary,” Blake said. “You would think at some point they would get the memo that this isn’t okay, but it seems that there’s no stopping it.”