James Blake Settles NYC Police Brutality Case On Condition That City Creates Fellowship To Take On Cop Misconduct

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In 2015, former world No. 4 tennis player James Blake was tackled and handcuffed outside a midtown Manhattan hotel by a New York City police officer who mistook him for a suspect in a credit card fraud case. Blake had a sound case against the city: the entire incident was captured on surveillance video, and NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board deemed it a display of excessive force. This week, the New York Times reported that Blake withdrew his claim—passing up what might have been a considerable payout—on the condition that the city establish a legal fellowship to investigate police misconduct and advocate for victims of brutality. Per the NYT:

The fellow, set to join the review board in January, will perform outreach in neighborhoods with a high volume of police complaints to help the agency close more of its investigations. Last year the agency cut short 55 percent of its investigations, mostly because victims or witnesses stopped cooperating and in other cases because the agency could not reach those people or because someone withdrew a complaint.

Mr. Blake spoke publicly soon after his arrest about the fact that most victims of police brutality have neither the money nor visibility, as he did, to elicit a public apology and a swift investigation. In compelling the city to hire the fellow, Mr. Blake sought to add an advocate for those victims — many of them in poor neighborhoods outside Manhattan — as they navigate the complaint process.


The review board already has four outreach workers, who attend community meetings to talk about the work of the board. But the new fellow will focus on educating people about the often arduous complaint process and the sworn statements that are necessary to prevent a case from being closed prematurely.

The fellow, a lawyer who will serve for two years, will be screened by the city’s Law Department and the review board. The city has agreed to fund the fellowship for six years and will pay the fellow no less than $65,000, in line with other review board jobs, a Law Department spokesman said. The money will come out of the review board’s budget.

Last month, it was reported that the officer who tackled Blake, James Frascatore, would not face a public disciplinary trial.

Correction (1:08 p.m. ET): The previous headline, “James Blake Withdraws Claim In Police Brutality Case,” has been amended to give more detail on the terms of Blake’s withdrawal.