Rochester mayor fires police chief over handling Daniel Prude's death

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announces the changes Monday

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announces the changes Monday. City of Rochester Facebook

The mayor of Rochester, New York, has called for a federal investigation into the death of Daniel Prude, a black man who was suffocated by police officers in the street almost six months ago.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired the police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.

Warren also announced the sacking of Chief La'Ron Singletary and suspension of City Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days.

Last week, Prude's sister filed suit in federal court against Singletary, 13 other officers and the upstate NY city, alleging in part a department cover-up of the death.

Prude's death gained national attention earlier this month after his family released records and footage of the incident, which has fueled ongoing protests over police brutality and racial injustice that were sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Some protesters are demanding that Warren resign. Warren has taken several actions in that time, among them suspending with pay the seven officers present at the scene of the incident while state and local investigations continue.

Those are among the findings of a preliminary 10-page report compiled by Deputy Mayor James Smith, accompanied by a timeline and trove of internal documents, all of which are publicly available.

"This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department - one that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve", she said. "I am just waiting on the Mayor to call me back to give her the update on the M.E.'s ruling", which was issued that day and determined that Mr. Prude's death was a "homicide." . The report also said Prude had PCP in his system. The mayor called for the City Office of Public Integrity (OPI) to initiate a thorough investigation to determine if any employees - including herself - violated city policies or ethical standards.

Credit Justin Roj
Credit Justin Roj

Video footage, released by Prude's family, showed officers using a mesh hood and pinning the 41-year-old Black man to the pavement during the March arrest. Those form the basis of his eight recommendations.

In addition, she asked the Justice Department to conduct a review of the police department and that the city engage with an outside agency to review training manuals and regulations for police officers.

"The events that have unfolded today have taken us completely by surprise, as they have everyone else", the Rochester police union, known as the Locust Club, said in a prepared statement.

He cited the attitudes of officers involved in the arrest, to investigators who determined their actions were justified, to department leadership continuing to describe Prude's death as the result of "overdose and resisting arrest" even after it was officially ruled a homicide.

Originally, police Chief Le'Ron Singletary was set to remain on the force until the end of the month after he announced his retirement last week.

Smith also said the city's handling of the Prude family's records request "seemed disorganized", noting that while the initial request was filed on April 3, the body camera footage was not provided until August 12.

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