On September 9th, 2015, James Blake was exiting a Manhattan hotel when he was accosted by police officers. Mr. Blake was pushed to the ground by an officer, who claimed to suspect Mr. Blake of credit card fraud. The officer failed to explain how a non-violent offense required a violent response. A review board later determined that the police officer was at fault for the incident, and should be fired.
Incidents like this happen all the time, but Mr. Blake is a former professional tennis player, at one time ranked number 4 in the world. Significant media attention was drawn to the incident of a famous athlete being mistreated by the police. Mr. Blake eventually filed suit against the police department, a complaint he withdrew on June 23rd, 2017 after reaching an agreement with law enforcement.
As part of this agreement, Mr. Blake dropped his lawsuit, and in return, the police established a legal fellow position to work with the community in areas with high incidences of police brutality and civil rights violations by officers. This fellow will be in charge of local outreach and tasked with helping the NYPD address more civilian complaints. Currently, the NYPD struggles to close even half of the cases where their officers are accused of some form of misconduct.
That Mr. Blake forfeited a potentially significant monetary settlement in hopes of addressing systemic injustice is noteworthy. A man of his standing and economic means can afford to. But even with the new fellowship created, many citizens of New York will still struggle to receive justice.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of police brutality, racial profiling, or another civil right violation, please contact an experienced attorney. Without the fame of James Blake, the media is much less likely to champion your cause, but a skilled lawyer can help you fight the system for the compensation you deserve.