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New York officer did not identify himself, ex-tennis star Blake tells hearing

Former tennis star James Blake has told a hearing a plainclothes police officer wearing a T-shirt and jeans did not identify himself before throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him in a mistaken arrest.

"He never said 'NYPD'. He never said 'officer'," Blake said at a disciplinary trial for Officer James Frascatore.

"He never said 'freeze', like you'd see in the movies."

In his own evidence Frascatore told an administrative judge that once a superior misidentified Blake as a target of a credit card fraud operation, he dashed through traffic across 42nd Street in Manhattan, New York City, and sneaked up on Blake outside a hotel to keep "an element of surprise", having been warned that the suspects could be armed with knives.

He said he waited to tell Blake "police, don't move" as he took him down with an authorised "arm bar" manoeuvre.

"I wanted to get control of the situation first," he said in his first public account of the 2015 incident.

The officer also said he apologised to Blake once the blunder was discovered. Blake said that never happened.

The contrasting accounts came two years after Blake's arrest - captured in a security video - became another flashpoint in the national debate over police use of force against unarmed black men.

The 37-year-old American, once the fourth ranked tennis player in the world, is the child of a black father and white mother. Frascatore is white.

Frascatore, 40, rejected a deal earlier this year asking him to forfeit vacation days to resolve New York Police Department internal charges that he used inappropriate force on someone who never resisted or tried to flee.

The judge will recommend a potentially more severe punishment, including dismissal from the nation's largest police force, to the police commissioner.

"This officer should not have a job," Blake said later on Tuesday after joining a group of police reform activists outside police headquarters.

Earlier in the day, Blake testified that during the 10 minutes he was handcuffed, Frascatore told him: "You know you're safe, right?" He said he responded: "I don't know I'm safe. I don't know why I'm here."

When it was over, the officer offered a handshake, but did not apologise, Blake said.

Blake said his first instinct was to "tough it out and walk it off", but his wife changed his mind by asking what he would do if the same thing happened to her.

"It shouldn't happen to me. It shouldn't happen to anyone," he told the hearing. "There needs to be accountability for everybody."

The NYPD has said that Blake matched a photo of a suspect sought in the case and that race was not a factor.

It also initially claimed that Blake had only been detained for a couple of minutes and was never manhandled or handcuffed, he says in his new book, Ways Of Grace.

In the book, he describes seeking out hotel security personnel, who showed him the video proving he was slammed down and kept cuffed at least 10 minutes.

He then spoke out about it on ABC's Good Morning America, which he says forced the department to release the video and change its story.

After the video was made public, city and police officials took the unusual step of apologising and establishing in Blake's name a fellowship aimed at helping people get full reviews of abuse allegations from a police oversight agency.

In an opening statement, Frascatore's lawyer Stephen Worth argued his client was being charged "because James Blake is a celebrity".

But outside the courtroom, Blake told reporters there was another reason, adding: "I don't think we'd be here if we didn't have video."

AP

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