James Blake walks off of the court after his defeat to Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in their first round match on day three at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Former tennis star James Blake agreed to withdraw his excessive-force claim against New York City after he was mistakenly arrested and tackled by police nearly two years ago.
In exchange, a fellowship will be created in Blake's name that will bolster the work of the city's police watchdog agency, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill announced Wednesday.
Blake, who ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, thanked the city of New York in a statement.
"It has been my intention since Day One to turn a negative into a positive, and I think this fellowship accomplishes that goal," Blake said.
A person will be appointed to the Civilian Complaint Review Board to perform outreach in neighborhoods with a high volume of police complaints. The fellow will serve two-year terms and the city will fund it for six years. In addition, the city agreed to pay about $175,000 toward Blake's legal fees.
"Transparency and accountability are critical to further strengthening the bonds between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve," de Blasio said in a statement. "The James Blake CCRB Fellowship is rooted in this administration's deep commitment to improving those relations."
In September 2015, Blake was tackled by a plain-clothes policeman after being falsely identified as a suspect in a credit card fraud ring.
As Blake waited for a car to take him to the U.S. Open, a plain-clothes officer ran toward the former tennis player and slammed him to the pavement, then cuffed him. After 15 minutes in custody, Blake was released but he said the arresting officer did not apologize.
The mayor and then-NYPD commissioner William Bratton both personally apologized to Blake shortly after the incident.
The police officer, James Frascatore, was later brought up on departmental charges after the review board determined he used excessive force against Blake. In May, Frascatore reached an unrevealed disciplinary settlement with the review board, according to the New York Times.
Blake's attorney said the fellowship is a compromise agreement and will be good for the city.
"This was created to get a more intensive focus on the issue of excessive force and to have an independent person brought into city government at the city's expense to address this very significant problem," attorney Kevin Marino said.