James Blake (161039)
Credit: Wikipedia

Today, members of the New York City Council announced that they will push bills to create and monitor an NYPD early intervention system for overly aggressive police officers. This move comes in the wake of officer James Frascatore’s mistaken and inappropriately aggressive take-down of tennis star James Blake in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel Sept. 9.

Frascatore tackled Blake to the ground without identifying himself or indicating why Blake was being arrested. Before the arrest, Frascatore reportedly had a history of allegations against him for excessive abuse. Although Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton have publicly apologized to Blake and placed the officer on desk duty, the Council members believe that more needs to be done to help train officers who may be prone to aggressive acts.

“The NYPD needs to intervene faster where there are officers who are prone to excessive force,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “The vast majority of our police officers are well prepared to calmly and appropriately handle arrests and do so every day, but there are obviously those who need additional support”

“We need to establish a baseline to understand which officers need help so that we can quantify complaints and better understand the data,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “Let’s track it, let’s monitor it and let’s make sure that the NYPD has a plan to address it.”

“The inappropriately forceful encounter between officer James Frascatore and James Blake demonstrates the need for new approaches to the monitoring and training of NYPD officers,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. “Creating an early intervention system is a common sense measure that will track officers who demonstrate a tendency toward excessive force while also providing them with the supports to course-correct.”

“Police officers in New York City have an incredibly demanding job, and addressing the needs of troubled officers is among my top concerns as public safety chair,” said Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson. “By coordinating the efforts of the agencies and departments tasked with monitoring officers’ work, we will develop a system that allows for early intervention and preventive supplemental training. It is my hope such a system improves police-community relations, officer morale and the overall safety of our community.”

Although there was no claim of resisting arrest in the Blake case, a recent report by WNYC revealed that frequent claims by a police officer that suspects were “resisting arrest” are a potential red flag, because some officers might add the charge to justify use of force. WNYC analyzed NYPD records and found 51,503 cases with resisting arrest charges since 2009. Just 5 percent of officers who made arrests during that period accounted for 40 percent of resisting arrest cases, and 15 percent account for almost three-fourths of such cases.

Garodnick’s bill—to be introduced at the City Council’s next meeting—will require that the NYPD establish an early intervention system to identify officers who may be prone to excessive force and who may need additional training or monitoring. This system will take into account factors such as complaints received and results of investigations conducted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the NYPD, as well as incidents involving use of force. The NYPD will determine if officers identified by this system are in need of additional training or monitoring.

Williams’ bill, which was introduced in 2014, was previously heard by the City Council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations, and requires the inspector general to submit quarterly reports to the City Council, comptroller and CCRB detailing the number and disposition of civil actions filed against the NYPD. The bill will be amended to require the NYPD’s inspector general to monitor and track the results of the early intervention program and report to the City Council.