Feedback
News

James Blake Decides Not to Sue NYC in Exchange for Fellowship

Two years after being wrongfully tackled to the ground by a New York City police officer, retired tennis star James Blake will finally see justice. When surveillance video of the brutal attack surfaced, Blake sprung into legal action—but not in the form most imagine.

In lieu of suing the city, Blake requested that a legal fellowship be created in his name, to provide resources to strengthen the police misconduct agency. The agreement was announced by the city and Blake’s lawyer on Wednesday.

Video Captures Moment Cop Tackles James Blake to Ground 1:26

On September 9, 2015, James Blake was mistaken by undercover white police officer James Frascatore as a suspect of a credit card fraud ring. The officers failed to report the accidental arrest, a standard requirement.

If Blake had not spoken out, the incident may have never come to light. Officer Frascatore failed to attend hearings on excessive-force charges brought against him by the review board in 2015. Instead of attending trial last month in an administrative proceeding, Frascatore is currently trying to strike his own deal with the review board.

Related: Black Community Coping With ‘Recycled Trauma’ After Charleena Lyles

Blake acknowledges that unlike himself, most victims of police brutality do not have access to the proper resources to complete an investigation. "He said, ‘I’m certainly not interested in filing a lawsuit against the city to recoup money for me, but I would very much like to use this fortuitous event to make a real difference,’” Mr. Marino, Blake’s lawyer recalled.

Image: James Blake, Kevin H. Marino
James Blake, second from right, talks to members of the media as his attorney Kevin H. Marino, right, looks on outside City Hall in New York after leaving the building Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Blake, a former tennis star, was tackled during a mistaken arrest by a New York City police officer on Sept. 9. Tina Fineberg / AP

55 percent investigations done by the Civilian Complaint Bureau were incomplete last year due to lack of victim or witness participation and because the Bureau was unable to reach the people involved.

Starting in January, the fellow, joining the Civilian Complaint Review Board will work to change that. During their two year tenure this trained and screened lawyer will work to educate people about the complaint process, reaching those who reside in poor neighborhoods outside of Manhattan.

The city will fund the fellowship for six years and review board will pay the fellow no less than $65,000, in line with other review board jobs, a Law Department spokesman said.

“The tireless efforts of committed and qualified fellows will help deliver on the transparency and accountability civilians and police officers deserve by ensuring that more complaints are thoroughly investigated and more cases are closed,” said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.