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James Blake drops lawsuit against city in exchange for NYPD watchdog fellowship in his name

James Blake, the former tennis pro, has agreed

James Blake, the former tennis pro, has agreed to drop his right to sue the city after he was mistakenly arrested and tackled by police outside a Manhattan hotel on Sept. 9, 2015. The city has agreed to create a legal fellowship in his name. Photo Credit: AP / Seth Wenig

Former tennis star James Blake agreed to withdraw his claim against the city after he was mistaken for a criminal and tackled by an officer, officials said on Wednesday.

He made the decision in exchange for a new fellowship in his name aimed at helping people navigate the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the officials said.

Blake was tackled and handcuffed by a plainclothes officer in September 2015 in front of the Grand Hyatt New York hotel on East 42nd Street after he was mistaken for a suspect in an identity-theft investigation. Blake was in town for the U.S. Open at the time.

About a month later, the CCRB deemed the NYPD’s use of force to be excessive.

Blake had filed a notice of claim after the incident, which preserves the right to file a future lawsuit, but agreed to withdraw that, according to the city’s Law Department.

Blake in a statement thanked the city and the mayor’s office for “sharing my belief that this is an important issue that deserves to be a priority,” adding: “It has been my intention since Day One to turn a negative situation into a positive, and I think this fellowship accomplishes that goal.”

The James Blake CCRB Fellowship will focus on helping the CCRB to reduce the number of complaints that are closed by the board without a full investigation. These made up about 55 percent of all CCRB cases last year, according to the mayor’s office, and could be because witnesses or victims don’t participate in the investigation.

“Transparency and accountability are critical to further strengthening the bonds between law enforcement officials and the communities they serve,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “The tireless efforts of committed and qualified fellows will help deliver on the transparency and accountability civilians and police officers deserve by ensuring that more complaints are thoroughly investigated and more cases are closed.”

The first fellow, who has to be a lawyer reviewed by the Law Department and the CCRB, is scheduled to start in January. Among other things, the fellow will work with complainants and increase awareness of the CCRB, according to the mayor’s office.

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