The New York Police Department commissioner apologized on Thursday for the mistaken arrest of James Blake, a retired top-10 professional tennis player, who said he was slammed to the ground outside his hotel in Midtown Manhattan after being confused for a suspect in a credit card fraud investigation.
The commissioner, William J. Bratton, said he had been trying to contact Mr. Blake, who is biracial, “to extend my apologies for the incident which he found himself involved in yesterday.”
The undercover detective who detained Mr. Blake has been stripped of his gun and badge and placed on desk duty, a tacit acknowledgment that video of the arrest raised serious questions about his actions.
Mr. Bratton, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, said he had concerns about “the inappropriateness of the amount of force that was used during the arrest.” An initial review of video evidence of the arrest, he said, led him to believe that it may have been excessive.
Mr. Bratton said the team of six undercover detectives involved in detaining Mr. Blake — all of whom were white — failed to report the incident, a breach of department practices.
The detectives who approached Mr. Blake were relying in part on an Instagram photo of someone believed to be involved in a credit card fraud ring that Mr. Bratton said looked like “the twin brother” of the former tennis star. That person turned out to have nothing to do with the scheme, police officials said, and they refused to make the photo public.
The episode provoked widespread criticism at a time when the treatment of black people by the police is under scrutiny across the country. It presented a significant challenge for Mr. Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was vaulted into office in part on the power of an advertisement featuring his biracial son discussing police tactics that unfairly target black people.
Mr. Blake, 35, said the episode drew attention to the kind of rough arrest tactics that he believed were all too common in New York City, but rarely came to light because they were used against vulnerable people.
Interactive Feature | Breaking News Emails Sign up to receive an email from The New York Times as soon as important news breaks around the world.
“I do think most cops are doing a great job keeping us safe, but when …Read More