“Sorry, race has nothing at all to do with this.”

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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138 Responses

  1. alanstorm says:

    So, you’re saying this is a racially-charged incident because race was an identifier of the person the police were looking for?

    Do you realize how incredibly lame that sounds? This is the same homeopathic reasoning that looks for “micro-agressions” and obsesses over every interaction of people of different races – which the left assures us are simply social constructs anyway.

    If you had a point to make, you didn’t make it.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to alanstorm says:

      I believe the point was, had Blake been white, and the suspect been white, the 5 cops would not have tackled Blake without provocation. The commissioner states that the force used is troubling, but immediately discounts the idea that the force used was a result of the race of Blake & the suspect. What other factor could so clearly be at play here that race is taken off the table at the get go?Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        It goes to the ‘magic minority super-powers’ theory mentioned in another thread. Kazzy notes this extends even to medicine, where apparently doctors and other health-care workers tend to unconsciously believe that blacks (for instance) have high pain tolerances and excessive strength, and thus give out different levels of pain medication.

        Why’d they tackle the black guy? Well, because black guys are physical threats in the way an identically built white guy isn’t. Because that guy is faster than you. He’s stronger. More dangerous. More deadly.

        And not because you’re in the KKK and buy into crackpot theories about animalistic, sub-human ‘others’. It’s structural. A million little things, spread over your whole life and culture, that lead you to — in the moment — rate black suspect as more ‘dangerous’ than white suspect even if you could never put your finger on why.

        So I doubt the officers were racist. They don’t wear white hoods and burn crosses. They’re just products of the same culture that leads to doctors prescribing lower doses of pain meds to black patients.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:

          I will say that there is one bit of evidence that, if put forward & corroborated by the white suspect, would change all of this quite a bit.

          If, say, the white suspect told the police, “That black guy over there is my accomplice, and watch out, he’s a violent one.”, that would skew things.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Man, if I were the cops, I would throw the white guy under the bus like that so fast it’d make your head spin.

            Hell, charge him with attempted involuntary manslaughter or something at the same time.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

              On another forum, I’ve been watching a lengthy conversation about police violence between a handful of posters, and I have to say — the most ardent defender of the police, the one who has explained how each and every incident (including shooting the kid with the toy rifle, and the guy carrying his purchase in Target or whatever) had it coming because it could be seen as a ‘threat’ and goes on and on about how instantly a police officer could killed….

              Listening to this guy, a tireless defender of police and their actions…it’s like listening to a man talk about bears. They’re wild, deadly animals. If they maul you, it’s because you were dumb and provoked them. You got too close. There’s no reasoning with them. There’s just submissive body language and hoping they’re not really unhappy bears.

              Which, you know, sounds like a real problem with policing in general. If the guys who are gung-ho, 100% behind the folks in blue are describing police like angry, dangerous animals and not trained, calm professionals…..Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

                If I were to come up with a narrative for the police, I don’t think I’d use bears (though I understand why some would). I’d compare them, instead, to the mafia or yakuza.

                As a white guy on the right side of the tracks, the cops are most likely to see me as someone who has been keeping up with my protection payments and it is in my best interest to continue to communicate in all of my interactions with them that I am pleased to be all caught up on my payments.

                So far, I have been treated very, very well by the police.

                People from the wrong part of town (or look like they come from the wrong part of town) are treated as if they are in a rival gang. If the members of the rival gang are behave perfectly/flawlessly, they find that they navigate the interaction between themselves fairly well. If they don’t?

                Well, at this point maybe “bears” is the best comparison.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Jaybird says:

                That’s a pretty solid example. Around drinks, a buddy of mine talked about getting pulled over — probably 30 years ago — when a black friend of his was driving. He said the interaction was surreal.

                They pulled away after they were ticketed and he asks the driver ‘Man, that cop was in a really angry mood’ and his friend, quite seriously, says ‘Nah, he seemed pretty normal’. Said that always stuck with him. Even more so that if he hadn’t commented on the cop’s behavior, it would never have occurred to him that it was anything more than a cop who’d had a bad day. Never occurred to him that that WAS a polite encounter to his friend.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              (I should have added: The fact that the police have not done something like this tells me that, as bad as the alleged white identity thief is, he didn’t pull a “there’s my accomplice over there, be sure to tackle him extra hard!”)Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Indeed. But I suspect if that had been the case, the officer’s very first words would have been “Sorry, that guy we arrested and KNOW is a criminal fingered you and then claimed you were violent!”.

            And it would have been in the initial report, so the press conference would have covered it. I mean that’s a pretty ready made defense and quite understandable, they’d have floated that out there ASAP rather than play the ‘Race totally had nothing to do with it! We tackled him because, um, CRIME”.

            Race had everything to do with it. The officers weren’t, in all likelihood, racist though. It’s just the structural stuff that’s built into our society. And we can’t talk about that, because it upsets delicate feelings.

            Nobody wants to hear “Look, I know you’re not racist. Like, you don’t think black people are inferior or anything. You just profit from and prop up a system that implies that ten thousand times a day in ten thousand different, tiny ways. Just sitting around, not being in the KKK doesn’t mean you’re not perpetuating an unjust, racist system. It just means you’re not doing it on purpose.”Report

    • Jaybird in reply to alanstorm says:

      It could, theoretically, be argued that the issue of arresting a bearded black guy, wearing a red shirt and a blue ball cap is one that has nothing to do with race if they arrested a bearded black guy who was wearing a red shirt and a blue ball cap.

      Where race starts to creep into the issue is when he was offering identification papers and the cops didn’t care. Where it really starts to creep into the issue is the tackle and the fact that he received cuts and bruises during the course of his arrest.

      A guy who fits the description of the perp getting detained? That will inspire a conversation about the police and whether their powers should be limited.

      We’re in weird “why is a violent arrest being made for a non-violent crime?” territory here. “Why were they ignoring his papers?” adds to the issue. (“But it was for identity theft! Why would you trust the papers of a guy who steals identities???” is interesting, but why wouldn’t cops consider the whole “maybe we tackled someone who was not, in fact, the perp we were looking for” issue?)Report

      • Doctor Jay in reply to Jaybird says:

        If he’s a perpetrator of identity theft, that means he has fake identification, and his insistence on showing just adds fuel to the fire. This is far less important to me than the tackling.

        Did they think him dangerous? Did they merely wish to prevent flight? What was going on?

        Honestly, my brain is suspicious enough that I want to know how they got wind of the identity theft issue in the first place. Did someone prank Mr. Blake? Did someone decide they didn’t like him standing where he was, or staying at the hotel or whatever and call in a report? How did that happen?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          I’m not the sharpest spoon in the garbage disposal but I was under the impression that “identity theft”, as it currently exists, is a lot more likely to involve getting fraudulent loans or credit cards or stealing someone else’s social security number rather than carrying around a Driver’s License with someone else’s name on it.

          Am I completely off base on that?Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to Jaybird says:

            A driver’s license with someone else’s name may be a tool used on the way to getting the loan, credit card, tax refund, or selling the property of the person being impersonated. But you’re right that it’s not the end goal.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think that’s pretty much the way it’s going to be up until cap & trade starts accepting airline miles.

            Maybe a few die-hards in the backwoods still out there counterfeiting S&H Green Stamps.Report

        • DavidTC in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          If he’s a perpetrator of identity theft, that means he has fake identification, and his insistence on showing just adds fuel to the fire.

          Not really. That means he is *voluntarily* showing *evidence of a crime* to the police.

          They might want to, uh, pay attention to that.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to alanstorm says:

      So, you’re saying this is a racially-charged incident because race was an identifier of the person the police were looking for?

      This question elegantly illustrates the point.Report

  2. CK MacLeod says:

    Indeed, I think I can predict with some confidence that no small number of comments under this very post will be dedicated to stating how other people certainly deserve scorn, but that the writers of said comments are above all of that.

    Nice try at pre-emptively de-legitimizing disagreement.

    Which means that even if no malice was intended, race absolutely was a factor — in the same way that hats would have been a factor had the police been looking for a man in a bowler and Blake had coincidentally (and inexplicably) decided to don one this morning.

    And in the same way that the police in such an instance would have been guilty of bowlerism.

    Skin-color is not “race,” and awareness of variations in skin-tone is not the same as “racism.”

    Were the arresting officers acting on racial prejudice? I don’t know. I don’t know any of the details of the event. If Bratton turns out to be wrong, then he will deserve criticism for having pre-judged the matter, although it seems to me that he was likely (perhaps implicitly) referring to any notion that Blake had been a victim of profiling, not to the question of whether racial animus or prejudice might have played a role in the use of excessive force. If his presentation of this view was confusing, he may deserve some criticism. “Condemnation” would seem to me to be an excessive use of verbal force, unless under a devaluation of the term.

    I’m not going to predict that the replies to this comment, if any, necessarily will rely on presumptions about my views on this specific matter or on the general topic of “racism in America” or “white racism in America.” I always like to leave the door open to being pleasantly surprised.Report

    • greginak in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      It is the quick pre-judgement that is part of the “white” reaction to race. He doesn’t know what happened but has questions about the violence used on Blake. Okay, that is fine at this point. But categorically ruling out race is about his defensiveness and unwilling to look something ugly. Of course race might have been part of it and denying it could be is what to many white people do. Start the discussion with how race certainly cannot be an issue.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:


        “YOU JUMP RIGHT TO TALKING ABOUT RACE!” If that is a valid criticism, how can, “YOU JUMP RIGHT TO REFUSING TO TALK ABOUT RACE!” not be an equally valid criticism?Report

      • CK MacLeod in reply to greginak says:

        Even the article that Our Tod quotes puts the statement in the specific context of “targeting,” not in relation to the use of force or other mistreatment – emphasis added:

        But he flatly denied accusations that race played a role in targeting Blake.

        “Sorry, race has nothing at all to do with this,” Bratton told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday. “If you look at the photograph of the suspect, it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake. So let’s put that nonsense to rest right now.”

        The statement in its entirety refers strictly to the question of the identification of the suspect.

        I haven’t watched the full press conference, but, on the basis of the evidence so far presented, the only prejudice involved is the one that assumes that Bratton like all white people must be given to racist ideation, and therefore that it is fair and in fact necessary to remove the statement from its specific context and apply it generally.

        Naturally, to defend Bratton here or to criticize his critics can by the same logic be taken as evidence of the same condemnable frame of mind.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          I really, really think that the alleged photograph need to be included in the evidence presented.

          Because there is no reason, whatsoever, to take as gospel the word of Bratton here.Report

          • NoPublic in reply to Jaybird says:

            I really, really think that the alleged photograph need to be included in the evidence presented.

            Except they can’t. Because the photo was taken from Instagram based on a name match and was in fact of an entirely unrelated innocent person. Or so says TFA.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          Did he address the racial aspect of the level of force, or only identification? Because if the latter, this would either be strikingly clueless or a cynical dodge to deflect the discussion.Report

          • You have the same article with the same sequence of questions before you that the rest of us do. First, there is the question of “targeting.” Then, there is the question of excessive force. The statement that RTod quotes and uses as a title, and as the basis of his excoriation of Commissioner Bratton and judgment of guilty white people further implicated by any movement to deny their guilt, refers directly to the first question.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              Are aren’t told the question that led to the denial of racism in targeting. It is possible that the question was specifically about why the police targeted a black guy, but it is at least as likely that it was a broader question about race in the events in question. If so, then he narrowed the question to the area where he could plausibly deny racism, then ducked the follow up question where he couldn’t.Report

              • Richard Hershberger: It is possible that the question was specifically about why the police targeted a black guy,

                I guess you’re comfortable with condemning a man on the basis of speculation about what questions he may or may not have been answering or about follow-up questions that he may or may not have been “ducking.” Because… that’s just how those people are?

                Bratton has given at least two public statements on the question of race in relation to this incident, one in a press conference, one in an interview on CNN’s “New Day” show. In the statements I’ve seen, Bratton’s focus is on the profiling question and his personal belief that race played no role in targeting Blake. He also goes on to assert that race played no role in the incident on the whole.

                It is difficult to find unedited video and transcripts, and we of course don’t know what else he already knows about the incident and the arresting officer or officers. It seems to me that the burden should be the accusers to provide convincing evidence. Tod et al seem to have a different idea.Report

        • nevermoor in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          I think there’s a valid point and a problematic point here.

          I agree with @ck-macleod that the OP conflates comments about why Blake was arrested with the question of how Blake was arrested. And I can see why NYPD would be sensitive about both. I don’t think it’s fair to say that a comment about the why is dismissive of the problem of race in the how.

          That said, I’m not convinced that the chain of events as I understand them exonerates NYPD of racial bias: CI shows police picture of black guy, police see other black guy, police arrest second black guy, first black guy turns out to be innocent. Seems like a prime example of one of the many valid complaints minorities have in this country.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          Yes, he’s denying a thing he hasn’t been accused of, on hopes that the thing he’s denying will replace the thing his force had been accused of in the public perception.

          The accusation all along is that the way he was arrested, not the fact he was arrested, had a racial factor.Report

  3. Alan Scott says:

    If you look at the photograph of the suspect, it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake. So let’s put that nonsense to rest right now.

    This seems an awful lot like “They all look the same to me”. I have a feeling that should we ever actually see a photo of the man Mr. Blake was mistaken for, his visual similarity to Blake will be confirmed as somewhat less that twin-like.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Alan Scott says:

      After he said “If you look at the photograph of the suspect”, did he make a photograph of the suspect available?

      If he did not, and I suspect he did not, then that tells me that it is not precisely true that if we looked at the photograph of the suspect that it looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

        They’re probably looking for a guy who looks like Blake to photograph.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

          They should be looking for a guy who “looks like” Blake to arrest for identity theft.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

            “”If you look at the photo … it’s a reasonable likeness to Mr. Blake,” Boyce said. “They look like twins.”

            But the Instagram photo can’t be shown to the press, he said, because it turned out to be the image of an innocent person, not anybody involved in the fraud case.”

            Reasonable likeness = twin. Only, that wasn’t even the guy they were looking for.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

              That’s so stupid that I cannot believe they even admitted that.

              They should have run with something like: “We cannot show the photo due to the privacy of the citizen in question who, I might remind you, is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law” and then closed the press conference after affirming that they cannot comment upon ongoing investigations.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                Although it *is* amusing to see the police official, for once, be the punchline of the old joke about “I’m sure that everything will come out right if I just calmly and reasonably explain how I didn’t do anything wrong”.Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to Kazzy says:

              I’m personally hoping beyond hope that the innocent person in the photograph they can’t release is actually James Blake.

              I mean, think about it… that would be just too awesome on so many levels.Report

              • Chris in reply to Marchmaine says:

                “This just in: James Blake, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, and Andre Agassi suspected of running the largest identity theft ring on the Eastern seaboard.”Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Chris says:

                Well, that would add a layer… we photographed an innocent guy who looked like Blake (but actually *was* Blake) and then tackled an innocent guy because he resembled himself. But, as fate would have it, the guy we mistakenly photographed was actually a tennis/criminal mastermind, and – fortuna o fortuna – the exact same guy we tackled. Its a fair cop.

                I’d even get a twitter account to watch the tubes melt.Report

              • Guy in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Makes me think of the climate scientist who successfully convinced the EPA he was a CIA spy.Report

            • Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

              We can’t show you a photo of the guy we thought we were justified in beating up because he too might be innocent.

              Uh, okay.Report

        • notme in reply to Griff says:

          The photo looks like Blake. Does it really matter, we all know the cops are racist.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to notme says:

            You keep coming back to denying an accusation nobody is making. Which I suppose is easier to than defending the specifics of the arrest.

            Which, incidentally, it seems this is not this officer’s first time using excessive force against black people – this time he happened to apply his typical treatment of black people to a rich and famous black person, so the NYPD has relieved him of duty.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Griff says:

          Okay, looking at the guy… I’m not going to say they’re twins but the resemblance is enough that I can see why the cops would argue that there is a reasonable likeness. (If you get into it, you can point out that the eyebrows are all wrong! The ears are totally different! The bottom lips are nothing alike which makes the smiles different! but…)Report

          • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

            Twin Strangers.

            Are people mistaken for one another? All the time. That’s why we fingerprint suspects and criminals.

            Physical resemblance only matters to the extent it can be used to explain the outcome, and it doesn’t get us where we need to go here.

            I don’t care about the misidentification. Job hazard. Mistakes happen.

            Don’t tackle suspects who are not suspected of being violent maniacs, nor fleeing. If you approach him and he flees, well, that’s tacklin’ time. Can’t really be helped.

            Chances are good most mistakes can be sorted out with minimal harm to all.Report

          • Guy in reply to Jaybird says:

            Agreed. I can tell them apart, but only because I’m looking at both pictures and checking for differences. If someone pointed to one of them and said he was the other one, I’d believe them.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Griff says:

          I see him! Open fire!Report

    • Glyph in reply to Alan Scott says:

      Honestly, even if they DO look alike, it DOESN’T MATTER. They weren’t looking for a violent criminal, they were looking for an identity thief. They could have approached Blake, and talked to him, and asked him for ID. They didn’t need to tackle him. Blake presumably wasn’t running from them.

      Now, this process is complicated slightly by the fact that an actual identity thief might have fake ID…but Blake, being famous, should have had no trouble pulling up some corroborating evidence for himself on somebody’s smartphone.

      It’d be a bit harder for me to easily prove that I’m NOT the identity thief they are looking for. But even with me, you’d hope I could just go down to the station or sit in the back of the car peacefully while it gets sorted out.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t go into specifics, but I know someone who was arrested by NYPD in a case of mistaken identity, and it didn’t go like that at all. It went bad enough that he got a very large settlement from the city.

        That was in the early 90s, though. Maybe they’ve gotten better (they haven’t).Report

        • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          I’m just saying that “they look alike” is a red herring even if true. It would only matter if the guy they were looking for was a violent criminal, in which case more heavy-handed tactics might be expected (if still regrettable, once the truth came out that they had the wrong guy).

          This guy is famous, he could have easily proved who he was without needing to be arrested at all.Report

          • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

            Oh yeah, didn’t mean to contradict that.Report

          • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

            Descriptions cops work off of are usually pretty vague; tall, young black man would fit a few hundred thousand men in NYC and each one of those descriptors has a lot of spread. Eyewitness descriptions are famously unreliable, not always wrong but cannot be treated as always accurate. Maybe Blake fit some of the description they had but that is likely still be huge bin to be sorted into. Far from a certain ID.Report

            • Glyph in reply to greginak says:

              Right, but focusing on how much he may or may not have fit the description of the guy they were after is to miss the point. Some people DO look alike. Mistakes WILL happen. So the important thing is making the consequences from those mistakes as minor as possible.

              One way to do that, is not to tackle anybody unless there’s a reason to tackle them, like they are suspected of being a violent armed maniac, or they are running away from you. If you simply approach them and speak to them, you can probably sort it out without any bones getting broken.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Glyph says:

        Now, this process is complicated slightly by the fact that an actual identity thief might have fake ID…but Blake, being famous, should have had no trouble pulling up some corroborating evidence for himself on somebody’s smartphone.

        …why would that matter?

        The problem here is that the police decided to arrest someone whose name they literally didn’t know, because they just saw him in a photograph! This, *by itself*, is incredibly stupid, and I fear it’s being overshadowed by the stupidity of getting the ‘wrong guy’…

        …the actual fact is, there was no right guy to start with. He couldn’t prove he wasn’t ‘the guy’, because the police had no idea of the actual identity of the guy.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Alan Scott says:

      If you read the full article though – they busted one guy after a courier delivered fraudulently purchased goods. Then the courier said ‘that guy right there is his accomplice from before’ (Blake was standing a few feet away). The cops went ‘Holy smokes that is him’ and jumped him.

      So, he looks like one suspect, enough alike that a witness identified him on the spot as that suspect, and happened to be standing right next to the other suspect at the moment he was committing a crime.

      I’m willing to give the cops the misidentification. It seems understandable.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Misidentification, sure. Tackling, though?Report

        • Guy in reply to Kazzy says:

          In that situation I could see tackling: what would you expect the actual accomplice to have done? I could see the cops expecting him to flee, and pretty quickly, which gets us to one of the conditions @glyph named (which I agree with). Five guys tackling him is pretty ridiculous, though, as is completely ignoring the evidence he gave that he was not the guy they were looking for.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Guy says:

            In what situation?

            Again, Blake was not identified by the “accomplice”. Blake was identified by someone who was part of the sting operation, who said Blake also accepted the goods.

            You have five cops. Why not approach Blake head on, identifying yourself as a police officer, while your four colleagues form a perimeter?

            Again, the guy who seems to have actually been involved was apparently arrested without being tackled. So why tackle Blake? Why tackle a man from behind? A man who has not yet even acknowledged the presence of the police?Report

            • Guy in reply to Kazzy says:

              The exact situation @dragonfrog outlined:

              “So, he looks like one suspect, enough alike that a witness identified him on the spot as that suspect, and happened to be standing right next to the other suspect at the moment he was committing a crime.”

              And then one idiot goes “crap, he’s going to run away if we don’t grab him right now!” and tackles the guy. And then ignores his protests for about ten minutes, before another officer tells him he’s got the wrong guy.

              I read this as regular stupidity, rather than mind-boggling stupidity.Report

              • Chris in reply to Guy says:

                Cops gonna cop.

                I dunno if race played a role (it usually does, in most things*), but regardless, this looks a lot like a cop behaving like a cop. And as I was hinting at elsewhere in this thread or the other one, the fact that he was able to get up and walk away without more rough treatment, a few days in a cell, bogus charges (resisting arrest!), and a cover-up, suggests that his fame ultimately overrode any differences in treatment based on his race. It even overrode this particular cop’s extra coppishness (Kolohe’s linked story mentions a case in which he not only overcharged a dude with weed, but charged his girlfriend with tampering with evidence because she came back and picked up his bike later).

                *For everyone but me, of course (see the OP).Report

              • Kim in reply to Chris says:

                Except in Alberquerque.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:


                Yeah, I thought Blake pretty accurately captured the problem here: the only reason he didn’t receive harsher treatment is because he’s famous. And the only reason anyone is aware of this particular instance of regular ole Cop gonna Cop behavior is because he’s famous.

                But, no racism involved, of course!

                Adding: I mean, how could there be? If no one is a racist there can’t be any racism!Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Cops gonna cop.


                The problem is not merely “the cops did this thing”. The problem is closer to “the cops do this sort of thing *ALL THE TIME*.”

                Moreover, we’re not even in a situation where them doing this sort of thing all the time makes us safer or the world a better place or anything like that.

                Had they tackled the wrong guy who was charged with some violent crime (“he told Judith Miller that Saddam had yellowcake!”), I *MIGHT* be able to see that they needed to tackle him to make sure that he didn’t get away. Maybe.

                But this is a case where there was a non-violent criminal who would have been arrestable in a non-violent set of circumstances and they didn’t go for that because they knew that they didn’t have to go for that and it was only some weird and strange set of circumstances that the actions of the cops made it to light of day.

                The cops are going to turn this into a debate over the mindset of the cops for this one particular little incident when the real problem is that this has already happened again at least twice since we first heard about this story and nobody cares because the at least two other people are nobodies who got told “sign here and say you won’t sue and you can leave and get back to your life” and they had to choose between going home right now (with a few scrapes and bruises) or staying in a cell for god knows how long.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:


              • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

                this has already happened again at least twice since we first heard about this story and nobody cares because the at least two other people are nobodies who got told “sign here and say you won’t sue and you can leave and get back to your life” and they had to choose between going home right now (with a few scrapes and bruises) or staying in a cell for god knows how long.


                This has already happened at least twice since we first heard about this story, and, statistically, one of the guys was sent home without any sort of apology.

                The *other* guy will be charged with a crime, forced to pay a bond, and either plead guilty or hopefully, eventually, be found innocent.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


                In my head, I have a piece wherein I argue that the most conservative among us should be leading the charge againgst Freddie Gray’s “jailers”. Because if we accept that what happened to Gray (or Rice or Blake) as SOP, than we are saying cops fully yield those powers.

                It’s one thing to say, “Maybe these cops messed up.”

                It’s another thing to say, “THIS is what we want cops to do.”Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                They might not fully yield those powers as a deliberate tactic.

                The special agent in charge, he says ‘You know, if we go out there and start messing with those folks, they know judges, they know lawyers, they know politicians. You start locking their kids up; somebody’s going to jerk our chain.’ He said, ‘they’re going to call us on it, and before you know it, they’re going to shut us down, and there goes your overtime.’

                I do think that a very important step is to publicize this, publicize, publicize.

                When people know that this is how cops act to people who they don’t think are paid up on their protection money, they might become uncomfortable at the thought that they’re working with (and funding) a gang.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

                Of course when you talk about this stuff with cops, they either take it as a personal affront, or they just shrug it off as a “that’s the system” issue.

                As an aside, has anyone else realized just how messed up the thin blue line is? The idea that cops can’t report bad acts by other cops because they’ll risk being ostracized or worse? And these people expect us to believe they are consummate professionals, rather than a street gang?Report

              • Don’t we all nod our heads and pretend to understand when a combat soldier says he didn’t fight for flag and country but for the guy on his right or left? It’s not “the same thing,” but it’s the working of the same mechanism.

                (Edit: Will gender-neutral terms ever become available for such statements?)Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Kazzy says:

          Like I say elsewhere, despite the police chief denying what his force was never accused of, what’s at issue isn’t whether racism was a factor in the fact he was arrested, it’s whether it was a factor in how he was arrested.

          Tackling him and refusing to see his ID does seem more questionable.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    One of the alarming things about this situation is that we know about it because Blake is famous. There is a non-zero chance that Blake would still be in custody — or have been in custody much longer — had that one office not recognized him due to his fame. If cops will tackle a guy on East 42nd Street in Manhattan — one of the busiest streets both in terms of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in a super touristy area of the city — what do you think they do to people in East Harlem or Washington Heights? And what do you think happens to those people when they don’t have an officer who is a fan of their sport go to bat for them?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      And what do you think happens to those people when they don’t have an officer who is a fan of their sport go to bat for them?

      Wasn’t there a tennis metaphor you could have gone for?

      “The police were clearly at fault” or something? “No love”?Report

    • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’ll give you the answer you are so desperately fishing for, ok? Yes Kazzy, it really really is racism every where and every time and place.

      BTW, I’ve never heard of Blake.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to notme says:

        Yes Kazzy, it really really is racism every where and every time and place.

        This is, of course, merely a rather hamfisted attempt to dodge an uncomfortable issue.Report

    • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

      There is a non-zero chance that Blake would still be in custody — or have been in custody much longer — had that one office not recognized him due to his fame.

      This is why I’ve argued that people should have access to a lawyer the *second* they are arrested. Like ‘here’s your cell, here’s your court-appointed lawyer, if you have some other lawyer tell him to contact them.’.Report

      • dexter in reply to DavidTC says:

        If you are in big trouble with the law and cannot afford anything but a court appointed lawyer, go rob a bank and use the money for a good lawyer because the more you can spend on an attorney the less time you will spend in jail.
        If you don’t believe this is true, ask one of the bankers who sorta pled guilty to laundering money for the drug dealers how much time the spent in jail.Report

  5. Kazzy says:

    “At the hotel, a courier delivered the goods to one man and police arrested him, Boyce said, identifying the suspect as a white male from England visiting the United States on a student visa.

    “That courier then told the owner of the service provider that the individual standing 8 feet away, Mr. James Blake, was the other perpetrator” in the earlier incident, Boyce said.”

    Was the English guy tackled? Why or why not?


  6. notme says:

    Sorry Todd but this makes no sense. If the cops arrested Blake based on a photo of a black guy that looked like Blake how is this possibly racism?Report

    • Kazzy in reply to notme says:

      Because they tackled him before engaging him verbally (or even identifying themselves as officers, it seems)?

      Because there are no reports of the white guy they arrested being roughed up?

      Because they ignored his attempts to prove his innocence?

      Because the photo they had wasn’t even the suspect and there is scientific data that shows that people struggle to make cross-racial identifications?

      Again, racism need not involve hoods and burning crosses.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        I think he was trying to make an analogy in which the claim, unverified and under investigation, that the ref(s) used racial slurs before one was tackled is compared to this situation, in which cops tackled Blake. Perhaps to illustrate the absurdity of completely excusing the tackling in the football case by seeing how absurd it would be to do so in the police case. It’s an analogy that absolutely destroys a position no one really espoused (except perhaps the kids themselves).Report

      • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

        That may be excessive use of force but not racism. The argument you are trying but failing to coherently make is that the cops tackled him b/c he was black.

        Everyone tries to prove their innocence, so what? He tried to prove his identity when the cops were investigating stolen identities? Do you see why they might not just take his word for it? Allegedly the photo the cops had was of another black person. Racism is where the cops have a photo of an Asian woman but decide to arrest the black guy b/c he is black.Report

  7. Sam Wilkinson says:

    The heroic speed with which people declare that something definitely isn’t the result of racism never ceases to mightily impress, especially when those people have themselves rarely been subjected to any.Report

  8. Saul Degraw says:

    The dynamic seems to be sins of the father.

    What I wonder is how much European-Americans whose ancestors came after the Civil War resent being considered part of the problem? Is this Civil War part of a person’s collective responsibility if their ancestors came to the U.S. in the late 1800s?

    There are all sorts of insider v. outsider v. outsider dynamics. The real insiders are WASPS who can belong to private clubs. Then you have various white ethnics who still seem to primarily identify by their ethnic/national origin and might or might not see themselves as white. Then you have everyone else.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      To the extent that a lot of Americans whose ancestors immigrated after the Civil War but are currently seen as white and see themselves as white and benefit from said whiteness, they are part of the problem. A lot of the police officers who commit acts of violence against African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are not WASPs. I imagine that most of them have any connection to any side of the Civil War.Report

      • El Muneco in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I am one of those people.

        I was falsely arrested when I was a teenager. Even though the arresting officer was also the victim of the crime, he never cursed me out, raised his voice, or used more force than necessary to keep a confused paperboy from running. They let me call my parents almost immediately, and released me almost with a smile. When the arrest turned out to be without merit (the sum total of the evidence was basically “he was walking down a street that happened to be a block down from his house, and I’ll ignore the fact that he’s the paperboy”), I got an apology and the arresting officer was transferred and (from what I heard through a third party) bumped to the bottom of the promotion list.

        I have no doubt that my whiteness had something to do with all that.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to El Muneco says:

          Exactly. People know that teenagers do dumb shit sometimes but your race, gender, and income level of your parents will control an extent your dumb shit is treated as a crime or not.

          Most of us don’t like the increasing trend of treating dumb teenage shit as crime regardless of the race of the teenagers but its a lot easier to be universally harsh than universally lenient.Report

    • The real insiders are WASPS who can belong to private clubs.

      Maybe. But some non-WASPs are more “insiders” than other non-WASPs.

      When I was growing up, among the Catholic community I was a part of, I’d occasionally (but rarely) hear statements bemoaning the way Catholics were sometimes treated and had in the past sometimes been sometimes treated. And those statements were true. Protestants sometimes did accuse us of “worshiping Mary” and sometimes did say we were “devils.” And in the past, there’s always the “if JFK were president, the Vatican would rule the US” and the KKK in Cibolia targeted Catholics, and the Nazi Aryan ideal was “blond hair, blue eyed PROTESTANT.”

      Again, all of that was true, but the fact was that in almost all important ways, our being Catholic, at least while I was growing up, didn’t at all harm me or members of the community I was a part of. In fact, the complaints about anti-Catholicism, at least the ones I heard, came largely from the white Catholics I knew and not the many Latino Catholics who also were part of my parish. The complaints seemed to be doing a certain amount of subtle work to, if not hide, then take away from the limelight any complicity the complainers might have had in the way things were and the enjoyment they derived therefrom.

      So yes, maybe only the “WASPs who can belong to private clubs” (and not non-WASPs who belong to private clubs or WASPs who can’t belong to private clubs) are the real insiders. But even if one isn’t a “real” insider, one can be enough of an insider to enjoy a goodly share of the privileges that the “real” insiders enjoy.Report

  9. Doctor Jay says:

    Gonna say this once at the top level. If he’s an identity thief, the ID he’s offering is probably a fake one, and hence useless to the police.

    Now, I think the police does owe everyone, particularly Mr. Blake, an explanation for what appears to be excessive use of force.

    They say the photo they got looks exactly like him. I’d like them to show us the photo. If it really is that similar, that would be interesting.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      If someone has stolen my identity, then MY (real!) ID is useless to the police. Also, the fact that an ID may be fake is something that can happen anytime. Unless he’s suspected of violent crime, keep talking to him until you can validate the ID. Heck, if you have to arrest him, arrest him, just don’t beat him up or tackle him without a reason.

      If the real James Blake hasn’t reported his identity as stolen, it should be a simple enough matter to contact him – particularly as he is famous and is due at some sort of official event. When the phone that rings is the one in the hand of the guy you are talking to, problem solved.

      I say again, focusing on whether (or how much) Blake looks like the real suspect is a red herring.

      Which is, of course, why the police want to talk about it.Report

  10. Tod Kelly says:

    nevermoor: I agree with @CK MacLeod that the OP conflates comments about why Blake was arrested with the question of how Blake was arrested

    In fact, the OP does neither of those things. You’re confusing what CK wants to debate about with what I wrote. They are not the same thing.Report

    • nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I’m having trouble seeing this. You do say that race is a factor because the NYPD’s false id was based on a photo, but I think that’s the weakest of your objections. I also think you are using the statement on targeting to apply as a defense of the use of force as non-racist, and I’m not clear that’s an argument NYPD is making (maybe they are, but @ck-macleod ‘s reading of this article seems better).

      NYPD seems to be saying that there may have been improper use of force (hell, he says the force used was inappropriate) but that this wasn’t a “driving while black” type of arrest. I don’t think they’re right, at least necessarily, as I said above, but I also don’t think they’re guilty of dismissing race as a factor in the use of force. If you think they are, I need to see something other than the quote about how the targeting wasn’t racial.Report

    • Tod, I think Nevermoor really has a point. When I read the OP, the only part at which I thought I disagreed was where I interpreted it as saying that merely targeting a black suspect was a sign of racism. Maybe I was wrong in my interpretation, and I’ll admit I didn’t click on the link to read further.

      (For the record, my eyebrows were raised not from the quote from the chief’s interview, but from this statement:

      Which means that even if no malice was intended, race absolutely was a factor — in the same way that hats would have been a factor had the police been looking for a man in a bowler and Blake had coincidentally (and inexplicably) decided to don one this morning.

      If the suspect had been white, race would have been a factor in targeting, too, but not a remarkable one. This sounds really nitpicky on my part and I don’t want to tear at every single part of the OP to find something wrong with it. I really think it’s a good OP. But from that comment, I had a very different takeaway on the targeting than you seemed to.)

      And to be clear, I’m not saying racism had nothing to do with this, especially if we’re talking about the the degree of force used. And for all I know, if there is some evidence I’m neglecting or ignorant of (a likely thing in these types of cases), maybe even the targeting was racist. (The “twin brother” comment, in fact, seems to suggest that the targeting may indeed have been racist.)Report

      • nevermoor in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        I endorse all of this.

        I’m completely convinced that a rich white guy wouldn’t have been tackled for being a suspect in a nonviolent crime, which is to say that the excessive force had a clear racial component..

        After seeing the instragram photo the cops had (linked above) I’m not at all convinced that arresting him was racial. I was expecting a much less similar face. In fact, I think stopping him and interviewing (or perhaps even taking him in for further questioning, depending upon how the interview went) was good police work given the evidence they had.

        I’m willing to be convinced that NYPD is saying the use of force wasn’t racial, but I don’t read the quote in that article as doing so. That’s all.Report

  11. Troublesome Frog says:

    I think it’s totally fair to give police a lot of slack when it comes to mis-identifying potential suspects based on physical descriptions or photos. Descriptions are usually misremembered and vague, and a lot of people look different in photos than they do out on the street. There a are really good reasons for expecting a lot of cases of mistaken identity.

    Those same reasons are also really good reasons why police shouldn’t just jump on people who sort of match a description. Either you have this “getting the right guy” thing down cold and you should totally be allowed to shoot people on sight, or it’s hard to identify your suspects with certainty in the heat of the moment and both forgiveness and caution are warranted. You really can’t have it both ways.Report

  12. Kolohe says:

    The Daily News has reported that the cop has had 5 complaints against him in the span of 7 months. (And the alleged supect they showed was a slim bald youngish (Brit) black guy) So it may not be about race, just that this cop is an unmitigated asshole who should have been fired at least a year ago.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Kolohe says:

      Is that a lot? Given that police spend a lot of time getting on the bad side of people who are perhaps not the most reasonable, I would expect them to get complaints all the time. But maybe they don’t count the obviously crazy ones.

      So I have no idea how to interpret that number.Report

  13. Brandon Berg says:

    But really, we’re all William Bratton.

    All white people are William Bratton, but some are more William Bratton than others.

    Specifically, white people who don’t acknowledge that they’re William Bratton. They’re the William Brattonest of all.Report

  14. Brandon Berg says:

    Calling it now. On Sunday, a guy who looks like James Blake’s twin brother is going to show up claiming that some guy who looks just like him tied him up in a basement for three days.Report

  15. Gabriel Conroy: had the police been looking for a man in a bowler

    Wait a second, now this shit just got real.Report

  16. Sam Wilkinson says:

    From watching the video, you can understand why tackling him was absolutely necessary. Just watch it. James Blake was just about to kill somebody or something.Report

  17. Kazzy says:

    Worth noting: poor form tackle. Are these guys trained in anything?Report

  18. Pyre says:

    “The second is that, regardless of what was going through their minds, it’s hard not to assume that gender bias did not play a rather important role. It’s pretty difficult for me to believe that Zic would have been gang tackled and detained without police attempting to verify her story and identification. After all, the spokespeople for the NYPD did not suggest that the man they were seeking was believed to be either armed or dangerous. So even in the very best case scenario, the NYPD was looking at a situation that very much appeared to be a gender motivated assault on an innocent civilian.”

    Oddly enough, it still reads the same. Funny how you can steer any story into the narrative that you prefer.Report

  19. nevermoor says:

    @tod-kelly If you were looking for a better example of the point made in this piece, the fine folks of Irving, Texas just delivered in spades.

    Muslim ninth grader brings home-brew clock to school, gets arrested because ignorant Texans think it’s a bomb, and the police make the patently nutty assertion that “the reaction would have been the same regardless” of the student’s skin color.Report