Five months after NYPD officer James Frascatore was found guilty of using excessive force to wrongfully apprehend former tennis pro James Blake, he received his punishment: Five days of docked vacation, half of the already meager punishment recommended by an independent review board.
Blake, unsurprisingly, is not pleased with the punishment.
“Losing five vacation days for excessive force is a woefully inadequate penalty,” Blake’s lawyer Kevin Marino told the New York Daily News. “Far from serving as a deterrent, a trivial penalty of that type would seem to be encouraging those inclined toward excessive force to go right on doing it.”
This all began nearly three years ago, when Blake was standing leisurely outside of a New York City hotel, leaning against a wall and waiting for his ride to the U.S. Open. Frascatore, in plainclothes, charged at Blake, picked him up off the ground, spun him in the air, and slammed him into the ground before handcuffing and detaining him.
Blake never fought back, but was left with a bruised leg and a cut arm. As it turns out, Frascatore had misidentified Blake as a suspect in an investigation into credit card fraud. Blake has maintained that Frascatore never identified himself as a police officer during the incident.
In October, Frascatore filed a federal defamation lawsuit against Blake, complaining that Blake described Frascatore as a “racist and a goon,” and that Frascatore, who is white, has been the victim of racism due to Blake’s claims.
Notably, this was not Frascatore’s first infraction on the job, either, as Monifa Bandele, spokesperson for Communities United for Police Reform and senior vice president at MomsRising, told the NYDN.
“He engaged in multiple incidents of misconduct, receiving five civilian complaints within seven months of 2013, even before he brutalized James Blake,” Bandele said. “That he was not fired after being found guilty of excessive force against James Blake, following those numerous other abuses of civilians, is a testament to the fact that the NYPD has a disciplinary system that prioritizes protecting abusive officers over public safety.”
Additionally, Frascatore is in the midst of another department trial based on charges tangentially related to the Blake incident; he is accused of, among other things, using his time on desk duty to search for security footage that would help clear him of excessive force charges against Blake.
Blake now considers himself an “accidental activist” — since Frascatore manhandled him, Blake has become an outspoken advocate against police brutality. In lieu of suing Frascatore, Blake established a legal fellowship in his own name that provides a lawyer within the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to help citizens push forward their grievances against police for misconduct and abuse.
“My incident gave me one of the chapter titles in the book — Accidental Activist — and it sort of made me one of those, too,” Blake told the Washington Post last year. “If not for this incident, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have been speaking so passionately or been so informed about police brutality.”