Fire James Frascatore
Sept. 14, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — When the picture of NYPD Officer James Frascatore was finally released, I bet many people had the same reaction that I did.
Of course, that’s what the cop would look like.
We had already heard the crazy story of American tennis star James Blake being tackled to the ground and roughed up by Frascatore and five other officers. And now here was this white cop with a shaved head and no neck who looked like he was pulled straight from bad cop central casting. Am I making assumptions about Frascatore’s demeanor based upon his appearance? Absolutely (and ironically), yes. It just so happens that these assumptions are accurate.
Last year, WNYC covered the utter disgrace that is the NYPD’s internal system of accountability. From the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) to the Internal Affairs Bureau (IAB), New York City Police Officers are rarely punished, let alone reprimanded, for conduct that would get the rest of us fired or arrested. One section of WNYC’s story covered the now infamous Officer Frascatore, who had the distinction of racking up five separate CCRB complaints within a seven month period. The report mentioned a complaint by Nafeesah Hines, who recorded her less-than-courteous encounter with Frascatore.
Using that tape and hours of interviews, the CCRB investigators exposed numerous inconsistencies, largely involving the testimony of the arresting officer, James Frascatore.
“Inconsistencies,” in this context, are just “lies” dressed up in a really nice suit. Then there was the complaint against Frascatore made by Leroy Cline.
Cline is accused of attacking the 6-foot-three, 220-pound officer and biting Frascatore’s fist. Cline, of course, has a different story.
“That’s when he opened my car door and gave me three straight shots to my mouth,” he said. (Emphasis added, because I just had to.)
It is remarkable how often suspects decide to viciously attack the fists of cops. It is also remarkable how often cops like Frascatore will swear to such blatant lies under the penalty of perjury without blinking an eye (unlike the suspect who physically can’t blink his eye because he attacked a cop’s fist with it).
After WNYC revealed that Frascatore was disgrace to the badge, and who had equal levels of respect for the rights of the citizenry as he did for the truth, he was still allowed to be a cop. And not just a cop, but a cop with a gun. And not just a cop with a gun, but a plainclothes cop with a gun. This is the part of the James Blake affair that has completely fallen under the radar.
Officer James Frascatore had a conduct record so bad that within a department of troubled records, he became the poster boy for a police force totally lacking in accountability. Not only was he never punished (or fired or charged criminally), but he was allowed to forego the common uniform and operate in the shadows as one of the NYPD’s ever-increasing number of “elite” plainclothes cops.
Frascatore perfectly fits the bill of a plainclothes officer. These cops, often in “anti-crime” units, roam the streets seeking to “anti” our city of “crime.” Their arrests are often the most violent because the person being arrested often has a few reasonable questions about why guys in the generic sports jerseys are putting their hands on him. And then there are the ones like James Blake, where the cops skip the pleasantries and harken back to their former days as third-string high school linebackers instead.
From the little we know at this point (thanks to the ever-transparent NYPD), Frascatore, et al., were investigating an identity theft case. If you thought that meant the suspects were accused of beating the identity out of their victims, that was not the case. These cops were investigating online credit card fraud and apparently some courier who was delivering a package wrongly pointed Blake out as being involved. Other than unlicensed lemonade stand operation, it is difficult to imagine a crime further removed from violence.
So why, when someone told Frascatore that James Blake was one of the guys they were looking for, did he think it appropriate to tackle him to the ground? Maybe Frascatore was not 100% certain that the man standing casually in front of the hotel was not armed to the hilt. Maybe Frascatore sees black men like Blake as inherently dangerous and prone towards violence. Or maybe, this somehow-still-a-cop did it because he adheres to a strict tackle first, ask questions later dogma.
But even if Blake was “the right guy” (he very much wasn’t), there was not even the hint of a threat warranting such a physical confrontation. The perpetrators were using stolen credit cards to make online purchases. But for cops like Frascatore, why treat scumbag “criminals” with dignity or restraint when he can show off the newest takedown move he saw on UFC? And anyway, when is airtight evidence like “some guy told me so” ever wrong?
This story is crazy because it happened to someone famous. In Midtown Manhattan. Ask any black kid from Brooklyn or Hispanic guy from the Bronx, and they would tell you the only crazy thing about what happened to James Blake was that they let him go. And they only let him go (after fifteen minutes in handcuffs) because he was famous. Oh, and because he had less than nothing to do with the alleged identity theft.
But never fear, Commissioner Bill Bratton (I’m a big, huge fan) is going to look into “the inappropriateness of the amount of force that was used during the arrest.” What question could he, or anyone else, possibly have? Frascatore, with an embarrassing history of misconduct, tackled the wrong guy to the ground for absolutely no legitimate reason. So, they took away his gun and his badge and put him on desk duty? So what. Too little, too late. The taxpayers of New York are not only continuing to pay his salary, but shell out a civil settlement every time he decides to dish out his own brand of unconstitutional justice.
And speaking of community relations, what about the new initiative requiring cops to provide their name and badge number to anyone they interact with but do not arrest? Not only didn’t Frascatore or any of the other officers comply, they didn’t even tell their superiors about this incident. The only reason Bratton found out about this was because the civilian spoke out. And that civilian was named James Blake.
The Blake incident also shows that we must dispense with the notion that proper investigation is a standard precursor to an arrest. People are often arrested, violently, based upon next to nothing. Blake was pointed out by some random courier with obviously little knowledge of anything. That was all Frascatore needed.
The NYPD tried to smoke up some mirrors by releasing a photo of a suspect that looked very similar to Blake. However, the man in that photo turned out to have just as much to do with this identity theft operation as Blake did. Unfortunately, for most people, they are not famous enough to motivate the cops to change course once those cuffs are on.
At the top, we know that neither Bratton nor DeBlasio have the courage or desire to deal with the likes of Frascatore, who continue to run the asylum known as the New York City Police Department. It is remarkable that with all of the tragedy spilling out of police interactions with the (largely black and brown) public, a fifteen minute arrest and a scraped elbow has somehow brought a new level of clarity to the issue of police brutality and dishonesty. This one interaction should bring into question every time a cop says that “use of force” was necessary. Necessary because he was black? Necessary because you wanted to? Necessary because you will never respect the public or the law enough to do it the right way?
Mr. Bratton, we have been hearing for months and years from you and your second in command, Mayor Bill De Blasio, about how you are looking for ways to improve the public’s view of the NYPD. Well, here is a golden opportunity. Fire James Frascatore.