- Kenneth Finkelman
is a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society. He represented Leroy Cline, a Queens resident who claimed that Officer James Frascatore punched him in the face after the officer stopped him for a broken taillight.
- Amy Rameau
is a civil rights attorney representing Warren Diggs, a Queens, NY, resident who was pinned on the ground by Officer James Frascatore.
- Warren Diggs
is a Queens, NY, resident who was pinned on the ground by Officer James Frascatore and two other officers on January 12, 2013, for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. He sued Frascatore for assault earlier this year.
Retired professional tennis star James Blake was standing outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on September 9, waiting for a car to go watch the U.S. Open, when surveillance video shows undercover police officer James Frascatore run at him, wrap an arm around his neck, tackle him to the ground and handcuff him. Blake, who is biracial, never resisted. Police say they mistakenly identified Blake as a suspect in a credit card fraud probe. NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the arrest “should not have happened,” and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has personally apologized to Blake. At least one officer has been placed on administrative desk duty after the incident, but Blake is calling for Frascatore to be fired as more is being learned about his record. Frascatore has worked for four different police departments in the last five years and has had five complaints in just seven months against him registered with the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) — more complaints than 90 percent of officers on the force receive in their entire careers. Several other cases have yet to be reported. The CCRB, an independent agency charged with handling complaints against the police department, has its own problematic history, criticized for covering up police misconduct, operating in secret and colluding with the NYPD. We speak with Kenneth Finkelman, a Legal Aid Society staff attorney who represented a Queens resident who claimed that Frascatore punched him in the face after he was stopped for a broken taillight; Warren Diggs, who was pinned on the ground by Frascatore and two other officers for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk; and Amy Rameau, a civil rights attorney representing Diggs.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: James Blake literally didn’t know what hit him. A week ago today, Blake, a retired professional tennis star, was standing outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, waiting for a car to go watch the U.S. Open. Surveillance video shows what happened next. And undercover police officer ran at him, wrapped an arm around his neck, tackled him and then dug his knee into his back. Blake, who is biracial, never resisted. The officer then handcuffed him. Police say they mistakenly identified Blake as a suspect in a credit card fraud probe. On Thursday, NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the arrest, quote, “should not have happened.”
COMMISSIONER BILL BRATTON: We are very interested in speaking with Mr. Blake and hope to hear back from him to extend our apology for the experience he encountered, should not have happened. … Concerns I have about what I witnessed on the video, as well as briefings I’ve received by Chief Reznick, the inappropriateness of the amount of force that was used during the arrest.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also personally apologized to James Blake. At least one officer has been placed on administrative desk duty after the incident. Speaking on Good Morning America Thursday, Blake said he believes the police need to be held accountable.
JAMES BLAKE: When you police with reckless abandon, you need to be held accountable. And I think I’m, hopefully, going to let people know that some of them need to be held accountable. And these that are doing police work the wrong way need to pay for those actions and be shown either the door or whatever—you know, whatever they need to do to punish them.
AMY GOODMAN: As developments in James Blake’s case of mistaken identity continue to unfold, criticism continues to mount against New York City’s police union, the Civilian Complaint Review Board and James Frascatore, the undercover officer who took Blake down. More is being learned about the record of Officer Frascatore, who tackled James Blake as he stood outside his hotel. He has worked for four different police departments in the last five years, from Florida to New York, has had five complaints in just seven months against him registered with the Civilian Complaint Review Board—that’s more than 90 percent of the officers on the force. But the CCRB, as it’s known, an independent agency charged with handling complaints against the police department, has its own problematic history, criticized for covering up police misconduct, operating in secret and colluding with the NYPD.
Well, for more on this story, we’re joined by Kenneth Finkelman, who is a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society. He represented Leroy Cline, a Queens resident who claimed Officer Frascatore punched him in the face after the officer stopped him for a broken taillight. And Amy Rameau is with us, a civil rights attorney representing Warren Diggs, who was pinned on the ground by Officer Frascatore and two other officers on January 12, 2013, for riding his bike on the sidewalk. He sued Frascatore for assault earlier this year.
Democracy Now!, of course, invited the New York Police Department to join us on the show or submit a comment to read on the air, but the NYPD did not respond to our request.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Kenneth Finkelman, let’s begin with you.
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: When you heard this story of the officer taking down the [tennis] star in front of the Grand Hyatt, the video, when did you make the connection?
KENNETH FINKELMAN: As soon as I heard the name. I mean, I had been—I was investigating this officer for over a year.
And it was an unbelievable battle, the DA’s Office, to convince them to drop charges against Mr. Cline, and they were refusing to do it, despite the fact that the medical records showed that the only injury to this officer was to the middle knuckle of his fist and that the officer had told medical personnel that he had punched somebody in the mouth, and despite the fact we had two officers—I mean, two witnesses in the vehicle at the time of the incident. My client passed a polygraph test.
Once we started interviewing other people in the community who had very similar experiences with Officer Frascatore, as far as having charges made up against them, being assaulted, people who had never gone to the CCRB, we were able to get the raw data concerning him from the CCRB, because that was their position at the time. If you made a FOIA request, you could find out how many complaints there were. At that point, we were able to use that raw data to get a subpoena, and a former commissioner of the CCRB, Judge Lopez, signed it, and that’s when we found out about this audiotape.
And it was only because the audiotape was revealed, which showed that Officer Frascatore had lied about the Hines case. Officer Frascatore had entered, without a warrant, a woman’s home and demanded a bicycle because, he said, it was arrest evidence in a riding-your-bike-on-the-sidewalk case against Ms. Hines’ husband. And Ms. Hines basically just said, “What are you doing here? Why do you need the bike?” And then she got arrested, simply for delaying. And then he lied, in a sworn statement, under oath, in a complaint, and said that she has said, “Eff you, I’m not giving you the bike.” It was only because of that audiotape that the DA’s Office was willing to dismiss the charges. Now the CCRB is refusing to provide that raw data in any case. That’s been their response to this absolute surge in police violence, and so it’s very, very disturbing that that would be the response of the CCRB.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I want to turn to a recording of the encounter that Officer Frascatore had with the girlfriend of Warren Diggs, Nafeesah Hines, after Warren was stopped for riding the bike on his sidewalk. Nafeesah Hines had one of her children take the bike inside the house. It quickly escalated. This is an audio recording that she took with her cellphone.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Where’s the bicycle that was out here?
NAFEESAH HINES: I took my—it’s my bike. I took it in.
POLICE OFFICER 1: I need that bicycle. Thank you.
NAFEESAH HINES: It’s my bike.
POLICE OFFICER 1: It’s evidence.
POLICE OFFICER 2: It’s his bike.
POLICE OFFICER 1: It’s his evidence. Sir, I’m coming in the house.
NAFEESAH HINES: Listen—
POLICE OFFICER 2: [inaudible] evidence, you’re going to get arrested. Not listening.
POLICE OFFICER 1: If you go—it’s called tampering with evidence.
NAFEESAH HINES: Excuse me, I can’t hear everybody talking at the same time, I’m sorry.
POLICE OFFICER 1: OK, it’s called tampering with evidence. Bring the bike outside.
NAFEESAH HINES: First, could you back up a little bit, please?
POLICE OFFICER 1: No.
POLICE OFFICER 2: No.
NAFEESAH HINES: I feel threatened.
POLICE OFFICER 2: Because we’re about to come in. We’re about to come in.
POLICE OFFICER 1: That’s fine. That’s fine. We’re going to come in your house and take the bike.
NAFEESAH HINES: I’m sorry, don’t. I’ll bring the bike out in a minute then.
POLICE OFFICER 1: So, if this is what you want your kids to witness, that’s fine.
NAFEESAH HINES: You can—if you can back up a little, please?
POLICE OFFICER 1: I am going to arrest you and take the bike if you do not get out of my way and hand me the bicycle.
POLICE OFFICER 2: Get the bike, ma’am.
NAFEESAH HINES: If you can back up, please—
POLICE OFFICER 2: Go get the bike, ma’am.
NAFEESAH HINES: —I will get the bike.
POLICE OFFICER 2: You’re going to get the bike right now.
NAFEESAH HINES: I’m not leaving the door open, because I don’t want you in.
POLICE OFFICER 2: All right, this is where you want to go.
NAFEESAH HINES: Listen what you’re doing to my children!
POLICE OFFICER 2: No, you’re doing this! Get the bike.
NAFEESAH HINES: You don’t care!
POLICE OFFICER 2: Get the bike, or you’re going to jail.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Go get the bike, or you’re going to jail.
NAFEESAH HINES: I will bring the bike. I’ll bring the bike.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Get the bike, or you’re going to jail.
POLICE OFFICER 2: Get the bike then.
NAFEESAH HINES: I will bring the bike. Can you back up, please?
POLICE OFFICER 1: No.
NAFEESAH HINES: So I can close the door while I get the bike.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Get the bike. And if you lay a hand on me, you’re going to jail, as well.
NAFEESAH HINES: Excuse me, please?
POLICE OFFICER 1: So I suggest—I suggest you stop.
NAFEESAH HINES: Excuse me?
POLICE OFFICER 2: Get the bike, so you can take care of your kids and we can leave.
NAFEESAH HINES: Are you touching me?
POLICE OFFICER 2: Are you going to go to jail now?
NAFEESAH HINES: Are you touching me, too?
POLICE OFFICER 1: You’re going to go to jail in two seconds.
NAFEESAH HINES: I can’t get the bike if you’re holding me.
POLICE OFFICER 2: Get the bike right now.
NAFEESAH HINES: I can’t hold the bike if—let go of me! Don’t come in my house. Don’t come in my house. Let go of me! Let me get the bike! Let me get the bike!
POLICE OFFICER 1: No, you had five—how many times did we tell you that? How many times did we ask you to get the bike? How many times did we ask you, huh?
NAFEESAH HINES: He has the bike now. What’s the problem?
POLICE OFFICER 1: Because you’re going to jail.
NAFEESAH HINES: I’m going to jail for what?
POLICE OFFICER 1: Because you don’t listen. That’s why.
NAFEESAH HINES: Can I call somebody, please? My children are here alone.
POLICE OFFICER 1: Is there anybody at home with these children? Come inside. It’s OK, honey. It’s OK. Relax. Is there anybody—is there any other adults home? Is there any other adult home?
GIRL: I’m a minor. I don’t have to answer you!
POLICE OFFICER 1: Oh, I see your mom teaches you well. That’s great.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Warren Diggs was pinned on the ground by Officer James Frascatore and two other officers on January 12, 2013, for riding his bike on the sidewalk. He sued Officer Frascatore for assault earlier this year. Welcome to Democracy Now! Set it up for us. What happened that day?
WARREN DIGGS: I was returning from the store. It was about quarter to 8:00 in the evening. I ride my bike in the street. It’s just something I do, you know, all the way up until I get to my driveway. I go down the driveway, and on the way down, I hear somebody yell to me, “Stop! Where are you going? Where are you going?” So, I’m not sure if it’s for me, because, you know, there’s no reason for it, but there’s nobody else outside at this time. Anyway, I get off the bike, begin folding it, and this is my normal routine coming in.
And Officer Frascatore, two other officers come running down the driveway. “Where you going? Where you going?” I said, “I’m going home. What’s the problem?” They said, “What’s your name? Do you have any ID?” I said, “My name is Warren. Yes, I have ID, but I don’t have it on me. It’s inside.” So the second officer asked me the same questions: “What’s your name? Do you have any ID?” I said again, “My name is Warren. My ID is inside. I will get it, if you don’t have a problem.” Nobody said anything. I said, “I have to get my keys.” They were in my back pocket. So I proceed to get my keys out of my pocket, and I turn so that they can see the keys. I’m not moving fast, and I’ve got my hands up, moving slowly, take the keys out, pick out the key that I need. Nobody’s speaking to me. Nobody’s saying stop. Nobody’s saying why I’m being stopped or anything.
Open the doors, two doors to get in. I step in. As soon as my second foot reaches the landing, Frascatore grabs me, tries to pull me out, and just spins me around. But I asked him, like, “What’s the problem?” The other officer grabs my other arm, and they both yank me out into the driveway. So I’m saying, “What is the problem? What is this about?” Frascatore punches me in the side of the head. The officer that was behind me, he grabs me around my waist, picks me up, he slams me on the ground. So I’m like, “What is the problem? What’s going on?”
The third officer says, “You were riding your bike on the sidewalk.” And I’m like, “What are you talking about?” So, Frascatore drops down on me. These guys—you know, the guy behind me hits me in my back. I’m getting hit all in my side. I see two other cops come down the ramp. And I’m getting hit on, I’m getting hit on. I’m asking, what are they doing, what are they doing? Nobody’s saying anything to me, so I start screaming for my girlfriend to come outside. I’m calling her, calling her, calling her, and she doesn’t respond. So I just start screaming, “Help! Help! Help! Help!” over and over again, louder and louder, as loud as I could.
When the other two officers get down, one of the officers—I believe that it was Frascatore, from the direction of where he came from, but I hear him say, “Mace him.” So I’m thinking to myself, it’s getting bad now, like I’m being beaten, and nobody’s responding. You know, nobody’s outside. It’s dark. Nobody’s, you know—so I start screaming louder and louder, “Help! Help! Help! Help! Somebody, help!” So, a hand appears in front of me. I get maced in my forehead. I close my eyes, and I’m getting hit and getting hit. I hear again, “Mace him again. Mace him again.” I get maced a second time. I’m still getting hit. Officer puts his arm around my neck. He’s pulling. He’s like—he’s trying to—he’s choking me.
AMY GOODMAN: He’s got you in a stranglehold?
WARREN DIGGS: Yes. I have this stuff on my face. It’s burning my face. I’m trying to keep my eyes closed so it doesn’t go in.
AMY GOODMAN: Is it Frascatore who has you in that stranglehold with his arm around your neck?
WARREN DIGGS: No, he was on my side.
AMY GOODMAN: Oh.
WARREN DIGGS: The other officer that helped him pull me out of the landing—
AMY GOODMAN: Mm-hmm, the door.
WARREN DIGGS: —he was the one that was behind me. But after—after I’m down on the ground, all I know is Frascatore’s on my side. He’s the one that’s hitting me on the side. The other officer and him are both trying to put my arm behind my back. And I’m scared that they’re going to break my arm, because I don’t know what is this all about. I’m just, “Help! Help! Help!”
So, I hear my side door open, and that’s when my girlfriend comes out. And that’s when all of the hitting stops and everything. They’re just holding me down. So, I can’t—I’m out of breath. It’s hard for me to breathe because the cop is still holding me. I hear her say, you know, “Does it take that many of y’all to hold him?” And they tell her to be quiet. And then one officer goes to talk to her, and then they start telling me to get up. And I’m telling them, “I can’t get up,” because, first of all, two of them are still on me. I have no energy. I have no—my body will not respond to me. I want to get up, but I can’t. I can’t get up. I can’t. My eyes are burning. My face is on fire. I can’t really see anything. And it’s just—it’s just bad. I don’t know what other way to put it.
But then, after a couple minutes, they’re still telling me to get up, and then, finally, they decide to help me up. So they grabbed me, they put the cuffs on me, and then they pulled me up next to the side of the house. They have me sitting on the side of the house. And then they asked me, “Do you have anything you’re not supposed to have?” And I’m like, “I’m not talking to you. You guys beat the crap out of me. I’m not speaking to none of you. I have nothing to say.” So, my girlfriend is telling me, you know, to relax, relax. I’m like, “Relax? Did you see what they did to me?” She didn’t see, because she wasn’t outside. You know, when she came, they stopped.
AMY GOODMAN: And your two kids were there also?
WARREN DIGGS: Yes, they’re inside. I don’t know what they saw, but I heard them screaming. I heard them. And then the cops, they picked me up, they walked me to the front of the house, and then they put me in the car.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what did they charge you with?
WARREN DIGGS: They charged me with assault on an officer. They charged me with resisting arrest. They charged me with obstruction of justice. They charged me with—I don’t know what it’s called for riding a bike on the sidewalk. They charged me with possession of marijuana and a sixth charge—I don’t even remember what it is.
AMY RAMEAU: They charged him with everything they could—
AMY GOODMAN: Amy Rameau.
AMY RAMEAU: Yes. They charged him with everything they could have possibly charged him with, to attempt to justify the beating that they administered. The resisting arrest, the obstruction of governmental administration, the assault on police officers—all of that was to try and justify the fact that he did in fact sustain a number of injuries as a result of their assault upon him.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, when did you sue them?
AMY RAMEAU: You know, well, I’ll let him tell. He was rather demoralized for a while. And he wasn’t going to pursue a lawsuit at all, you know, hence the delay in my filing the lawsuit for him. He came to me—
WARREN DIGGS: It was a while after.
AMY RAMEAU: Mm-hmm.
WARREN DIGGS: It was a few months, I’m not sure.
AMY RAMEAU: And what he said to me was, you know—and we talked about this.
WARREN DIGGS: I’ve been—yeah, I’ve had problems with police harassment and these type of things for a large part of my teens and my early twenties, and I’ve been through stuff. I’ve had cases put on me before, out of state, where I had to go to court and fight and had no support, and afterwards having cases dismissed. I tried to go and pursue lawsuits, and I could not find anybody that would assist me. So, when this incident came, I was angry, and I wanted something done, but I just didn’t have any faith that anything would be done. So…
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But what ended up happening with all the initial charges?
AMY RAMEAU: They were all dismissed.
WARREN DIGGS: They were all dismissed.
AMY RAMEAU: All the allegations were dismissed.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, ultimately, though, you did sue?
AMY RAMEAU: He did.
WARREN DIGGS: Yes, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And when was that?
AMY RAMEAU: He came to me, and I filed the lawsuit for him earlier this year.
AMY GOODMAN: And did you file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board?
WARREN DIGGS: I did, yes. I did.
AMY GOODMAN: And did they respond?
WARREN DIGGS: They sent me back a letter saying that the police actions were justified.
AMY RAMEAU: Well, they substantiated only one of the allegations, that being that Police Officer Frascatore failed to identify himself as required, when he was asked to by Ms. Hines.
WARREN DIGGS: Yeah, that had nothing to do with me.
AMY GOODMAN: So, when you saw what happened to James Blake—when did you make the connection between the officer who you see, this human torpedo coming at Blake on the video, and you?
WARREN DIGGS: Well, in the video, I can’t tell, because it’s just the top and the back of his head, so I didn’t realize it was him, actually, until the first reporters came to my house to speak to me. And when they mentioned his name, I’m like, “That was him?” And they was like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Wow! This guy is out of control.”
AMY GOODMAN: Did you get a call from Mayor de Blasio or Police Commissioner Bratton apologizing?
WARREN DIGGS: I didn’t get a call from nobody, nobody other than a couple of news reporters.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to ask Kenneth Finkelman—this whole issue of the Civilian Complaint Review Board—
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, supposedly, the Civilian Complaint Review Board now, under Mayor de Blasio, is being run by a civil rights attorney, and—Richard Emery. And what’s been your experience with the CCRB now in recent years?
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Right. Ironically, they’re—it’s become much worse dealing with them, because they have a new policy of suppressing all information. It used to be that you could get the raw data pursuant to the Freedom of Information law. That raw data was very useful. Now their position is, no raw data should be provided. As a matter of fact, they highlighted, in their yearly report, that they are being much more protective of police officers now. This is their claim to fame at this point. And as a matter of fact, the Legal Aid Society brought a lawsuit in the Garner case to get the raw data, the Supreme Court judge agreed with us, and now they’re appealing. And so, this is the most shocking thing I can imagine, because if we hadn’t had that information in the Cline case, none of this would have gotten out. Nobody would be talking about this. They would all seem like separate cases. It’s only because we had the raw data, a judge signed the subpoena, we had the material, and Robert Lewis from NPR brought a story with that audiotape. That’s why we’re here today.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Leroy Cline, one of your clients, a Queens resident who was pulled over in 2012 by Officer Frascatore for a broken taillight. This is Cline speaking to CNN.
LEROY CLINE: Well, it was a routine stop. He asked me for license and registration. And where I’m from, I get pulled over a lot. So—
MICHAELA PEREIRA: You do?
LEROY CLINE: Yeah. This time I decided to ask, “What am I being pulled over for?” Frascatore, he completely ignored me. He said, “License and registration.” I said, “Sir, what am I being pulled over for?” politely. That’s when he reached inside my door and unlocked my car door and opened it. And he tried to grab me. I didn’t know what was going on. So I swayed back. That’s when he came with three straight shots to my teeth, to my mouth area. And at that point, I was delirious, because it felt like my—I had no two front teeth at that time. So I was screaming at the top of my lungs. That’s when his partner came around and grabbed my legs. And they actually threw me in front of my hood. They patted me down. He actually slammed my head to the front of my hood twice. I guess he did a quick little patdown, handcuffed me. He ripped my—I had shorts on that had like a string to hold them up.
MICHAELA PEREIRA: Yeah, he pulled that off.
LEROY CLINE: He popped that off. So, at this point, my shorts were down to my ankles.
MICHAELA PEREIRA: Oh, goodness.
LEROY CLINE: And my boxers were showing.
AMY GOODMAN: Officer Frascatore had a different story. He claimed Leroy Cline attacked him and bit his fist. He said he sustained permanent injuries while trying to arrest him. However, medical records revealed the officer’s cut on his hand was consistent with him punching Cline in the mouth. Kenneth Finkelman, you represented Cline.
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you quickly summarize what happened? You also sued the police over Frascatore, sued Frascatore?
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Not I, but he did sue. I’m a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society. We don’t sue people. The only injury to the officer was the middle knuckle of his fist. I would just like to say, I would like the City Council to hold a hearing and call in the CCRB employees that were in charge of the investigation in the Diggs case, in the Hines case, in the Leroy Cline case. Call in the IAB people that were involved in these investigations.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Internal Affairs Bureau, yeah.
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Yes. Let’s find out why nobody found any of these allegations to be substantiated, despite audiotapes in the Hines case, despite the police officers admissions in the Cline case at the hospital that he had punched somebody in the mouth. Let’s find out why nobody substantiated any of these allegations.
AMY GOODMAN: And your—but your client sued.
KENNETH FINKELMAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And Frascatore is still—this assailant is still on the force.
KENNETH FINKELMAN: No, they’re getting ready to promote him to be a detective. And now the CCRB’s only reaction is to suppress all information. I’m wondering if Mayor de Blasio even knows about this. I would like him to invite my client to the Mayor’s Office and explain why the new policy is suppression of all information.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to break, and we’re going to come back to this discussion. We’ll also be joined at the table by Joy-Ann Reid. Thank you very much to Kenneth Finkelman—we’ll will continue this discussion—with the Legal Aid Society. Amy Rameau and Warren Diggs will stay with us. Amy Rameau is the attorney representing Warren, who also brought a suit against Officer Frascatore, the man who took down James Blake, which is why his record—that’s Frascatore’s record—is all being opened up right now, because James Blake, who was the victim this latest time—it was caught on videotape, and he’s a tennis star. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Hell You Talmbout” by Janelle Monaé, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, as we continue to look at the James Blake incident and police brutality, we’re joined now by Joy-Ann Reid, a national correspondent for MSNBC. She was the host of MSNBC’s The Reid Report and was a press aide in the final stretch of Barack Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008. Her new book is Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide.
AMY GOODMAN: We still have with us Warren Diggs, who was pinned on the ground by Officer James Frascatore and two other officers on January 12, 2013, for riding his bike on the sidewalk. He came up on the sidewalk as he was going into his house. He sued Officer Frascatore for assault earlier this year. Amy Rameau is his lawyer, a civil rights attorney here in New York. Before we go to Joy-Ann Reid to get comment, to get comment from the police, as well, Warren, you described this horrific account of what happened to you, as you went in, because the officers asked for your ID, and you tried to go into your house to get the ID, telling them in advance you were going to go into the house, and Frascatore started to beat you, and then they maced you. You’re then taken to the police station. What happened there?
WARREN DIGGS: Well, when I get to the police station, I’m all—my face is still burning because of all of the mace. I’m covered in mud. And they—the officers behind the desk, they are laughing, looking at me. And they’re like, “Look at this. We got the predator here.” And at the time, I had dreadlocks, and my hair was all over the place. They had even pulled some of my locks out. They were laying in the driveway; when I got back home, I seen them. They’re telling me that I look like I was playing in the jungle. And I’m like, “What are you—what are you talking about?” That’s the only thing I was able to say. But they’re laughing. These are the officers behind the desk. They wasn’t even there. They don’t know what happened. They’re just cracking jokes, and Frascatore’s laughing, and the other guy that was with him, they’re all laughing.
And there was an EMS worker there, and she was trying to ask them if they would release me to her custody so she can take me to get checked up. And they were giving her a difficult time, telling her that she didn’t have any jurisdiction or anything like that. And they’re still saying stuff, laughing and all of that. So she’s going back and forth with them. And they decide to, you know, let her take me to the back to wash the mace out of my face.
So, when they bring me back to the desk, I see my girlfriend handcuffed to the chair in her nightclothes. And I’m saying, “What are you”—I’m asking, “What are you doing here?” Because all of the stuff that happened with her that’s on the tape, that happened after they took me away from the door. I was in the car and off to the precinct when all of that stuff started, so I didn’t even know that she had a problem with them. So she’s handcuffed to the chair, and they’re talking about her, too. One of the cops is like, “Which officer’s back did she jump on to get here?” And I’m like, “What are you—why is she here? Why is my wife here?”
AMY RAMEAU: I represented Nafeesah Hines. And she was in the doorway, scantily clad with, you know, silk pajamas. This is—we’re talking January 2013, so it’s really cold outside. Flip-flops. She has this encounter with Frascatore, who grabs her by her wrist, yanks her out of the doorway, OK, cuffs her, drags her down the hallway. And she’s concerned about her children being left behind in the house. They’re young children. He’s dragging her down the hall. She’s concerned about losing her slippers, right? So he takes her to a van—this is Frascatore—shoves her into the van violently, and takes her down to the precinct.
AMY GOODMAN: What about the kids?
AMY RAMEAU: Well, this is what happened afterwards. He goes back into the house and begins to question the children. And that’s there; that was captured on audiotape. He goes into the house. He ransacked the house, without a warrant, without permission, without consent from my client. He went through their bedrooms, their drawers, ransacked—the place was a mess by the time these people got back home, OK? It’s horrifying.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This is the same officer, obviously—
AMY RAMEAU: The same officer, Frascatore.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Frascatore, who did James Blake, as well.
AMY RAMEAU: That’s correct. That’s correct.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to ask about the statement by the PBA, recently issued by Patrick Lynch, where he basically says that these are armchair pundits. This is what he said on Tuesday, issuing a scathing letter, quote, “to all armchair judges” in response to the outcry over James Blake’s arrest. This is part of what he said: “It is mystifying to all police officers to see pundits and editorial writers whose only expertise is writing fast-breaking, personal opinion, and who have never faced the dangers that police officers routinely do, come to instant conclusions that an officer’s actions were wrong based upon nothing but a silent video.” Your response to that?
AMY RAMEAU: Yes. The reason why these cops are running amok, OK—I like to call them criminals in blue, and I’m not saying that all officers are bad, but certainly Frascatore is a bad apple, among others, right? So the reason why this continues to happen is because of an institutional failure on the part of the institutions who are charged with protecting us from bad police, institutions who are charged with sanctioning bad police officers who behave this way. It’s because of their failure to take adequate action against these officers that this continues to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to bring—
AMY RAMEAU: And the PBA, if I may add, is part and parcel of the same institutional failure. The PBA behaves as some sort of a bully representative, a bully agent, for bad police officers who commit gross misconduct.
AMY GOODMAN: Joy-Ann Reid, we have 10 seconds, and then we’re going to do a post-show interview with you, and we’re going to play that on the air. Your response? You’ve covered a lot of these kind of cases.
JOY-ANN REID: Right. And I think one of the things that we see that’s consistent in many of these cases is that the entire institutions do really protect the officer and back up the story. And I think one of the challenges, even for police officers who may witness misconduct that they find troubling—
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
JOY-ANN REID: —is that it’s very difficult for them to come forward, as well, and difficult for prosecutors to get at these cases, because there is—everyone sort of agrees upon the official story.
AMY GOODMAN: Joy-Ann Reid, we’re going to talk to you about your book, Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide. Tune in to Democracy Now! Warren Diggs, Amy Rameau, thank you so much.