Patrick J. Lynch, the head of the largest police union in New York, wrote in an open letter that reporters are unqualified to judge the actions of police officers and that their “inflammatory” rhetoric worsens relations between police and the community.
The letter, addressed to “all armchair judges,” comes a week after a widely condemned incident in which NYPD officer James Frascatore mistakenly tackled and handcuffed former tennis pro James Blake outside his hotel.
The episode between the white police officer and the retired black tennis player was caught on camera and has reignited a debate over police use-of-force against men of colour. Blake has since said that Frascatore should be fired.
“No one should ever jump to an uninformed conclusion based upon a few seconds of video,” Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, wrote in his letter. “Let all of the facts lead where they will, but police officers have earned the benefit of the doubt because of the dangers we routinely face.”
Lynch adds that it is “irresponsible, unjust, and un-American” for “editorial writers” to come to “instant conclusions that an officer’s actions were wrong based upon nothing but a silent video.”
“If you have never struggled with someone who is resisting arrest or who pulled a gun or knife on you when you approached them for breaking the law, then you are not qualified to judge the action’s of police officers putting themselves in harm’s way for the public good,” he reasons.
Kevin Marino, the attorney for Blake, has called the letter “far worse than nonsense” and said Lynch’s defence of Frascatore — who has been named in several civil rights lawsuits alleging excessive force —
was damaging the reputation of his members, Reuters reports.
“In attempting to justify Mr. Frascatore’s indefensible conduct by reference to the risks and rigors of police work, Mr. Lynch badly disservices himself and the many honorable officers he is sworn to represent,” Marino said in a written response. “Nothing about Mr. Frascatore’s terrifying interaction with James Blake bore any resemblance to due process of law.”
The reaction on Twitter to Lynch’s letter has been equally as damning:
Patrick J Lynch isn’t doing the NYPD or their union any favours with this. https://t.co/Rwphq3Yvum
— Michael Conway (@MXConway) September 15, 2015
Patrick J. Lynch proves over and over he’s nothing but walking garbage.
— Anika Malone (@12bLAxx) September 15, 2015
Here is the letter in full:
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