MIDTOWN — Retired tennis player James Blake has withdrawn his excessive force claim against the city after an NYPD officer tackled him outside a Midtown hotel — as the city announced a fellowship program to improve oversight of police misconduct.
Blake, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced the James Blake CCRB Fellowship, which is aimed at reducing the number of complaints probed by the Civilian Complaint Review Board without a full investigation, the mayor’s office announced Wednesday.
The fellowship comes almost two years after an unsuspecting Blake was attacked by a plainclothes police officer outside his Manhattan hotel in 2015 after wrongly mistaking him for someone involved in a credit card fraud ring.
“I want to thank the City of New York and the Mayor’s Office for sharing my belief that this is an important issue that deserves to be a priority,” Blake said in a statement. “It has been my intention since Day One to turn a negative situation into a positive, and I think this fellowship accomplishes that goal.”
The program, which will be funded by the city for six years, chooses fellows who will assist petitioners through the CCRB process and work with community leaders to raise awareness of the review board across the City.
Part of the agreement stipulates that Blake’s legal fees will be paid by the city, as well as his travel expenses to New York City in relation to the fellowship, according to a Law Department spokesman.
The mayor spoke highly of the deal and his commitment for transparency from the NYPD.
“Transparency and accountability are critical to further strengthening the bonds between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve,” de Blasio said.
Not everyone agreed with the mayor’s assessment.
Gwen Carr and Constance Malcolm, the mothers of Eric Garner and Ramarley Graham, who were killed by police officers in 2014 and 2012, respectively, spoke out against the agreement.
“It’s disappointing that after receiving preferential treatment from the City, James Blake appears to be giving cover to the de Blasio administration for its complete lack of police accountability and transparency instead of supporting the demands of our families and communities for an end to police abuses against us,” they said in a joint statement.
Garner was killed by a police officer who applied an illegal chokehold, after he was selling untaxed cigarettes outside a convenience store on Staten Island. Graham was fatally shot by a police officer in the bathroom of his Bronx apartment. The officers involved in each case have not faced charges in the deaths.
The officer who tackled Blake, James Frascatore, got to keep his job following the incident. It was recently reported that he won’t face a public disciplinary trial stemming from the incident.