N.Y. police commissioner criticizes use of force in tennis star's arrest

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 10, 2015 12:00 PM

By Scott Malone

(Reuters) - New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said on Thursday he was concerned over the level of force used in the arrest of retired U.S. tennis star James Blake, who was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a fraud ring.

Blake told local media plainclothes officers surrounded him outside hotel in a Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday and slammed him to the ground before handcuffing him for 15 minutes.

Blake, at one time ranked fourth in the world, said he had been waiting for a car to take him to the U.S. Tennis Open when he was detained by the officers, who were white.

Police said Blake, who is black, had been mistakenly identified by a cooperating witness as a suspect in a fraud ring. The officer who tackled Blake has been put on desk duty, Bratton said, adding he had reviewed video of the incident.

"Concerns I have about what I witnessed on the video .... (include) the inappropriateness about the amount of force that was used during the arrest," Bratton told reporters.

Bratton said he was also concerned that no report had been made of Blake's arrest and detention, which became public after the former player reported it to the New York Daily News. He said police wanted to talk to Blake to hear his version of events.

The incident involving a well-known former U.S. player at a time when many in the city have their attention on the U.S. Open being played at Flushing Meadows, revived questions over excessive police force that reverberated around the country after a series of police killings of unarmed black men.

"I'd like an apology. I'd like an explanation for how they conducted themselves because I think we all need to be held accountable for our actions, and police as well," Blake told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday.

He added that he had cooperated throughout the incident with the officers, who did not immediately identify themselves as law enforcement.

"The first words out of my mouth were, 'I'm going to 100 percent cooperate. I don't want any incident or whatever,' just out of reaction from what I've seen in the media,'" he said.

The NYPD last year promised to revamp how it trained officers after 43-year-old Eric Garner died after being placed in a chokehold by officers who were trying to arrest him for suspected illegal cigarette sales on Staten Island in July 2014.

The Garner case was one of a string of cases in the past year involving the deaths of black men in confrontations with police - including in Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Missouri - that sparked a debate over race and justice.

Some 57 percent of black respondents to a Pew Research Center poll last year said police do a poor job of using the right amount of force when they respond to situations, more than double the 22 percent of white respondents who reported that view.

That poll, of 1,501 U.S. adults, including 1,082 white adults and 153 black adults, was conducted in August 2014, days after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The margin of error for white respondents was 3.4 percent and for black respondents 9.1 percent.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Additional reporting by Katie Reilly in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)