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Rochester Mayor Fires Police Chief Days After He Announces Retirement

Rochester, NY – Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired the city’s police chief on Monday and requested a federal investigation into the death of 41-year-old Daniel Prude.

“This initial look has shown what so many have suspected – that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said, according to the Associated Press. “One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve.”

The mayor declared that the “initial look” at the situation showed that Prude’s death “was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewed the case throughout city government at every level.”

She further announced she has suspended Communications Director Justin Roj and Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin without pay for 30 days after the initial management review into Prude’s death, the Associated Press reported.

Earlier this month, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, announced he would be retiring from the department effective Sept. 29.

Black Lives Matter activists have been demanding that Chief Singletary and Warren step down, claiming that they are responsible for allegedly trying to cover up the circumstances of Prude’s death, the New York Post reported.

“I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” Chief Singletary said in a statement regarding his retirement. “The mischaracterizations and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.”

At least six other high-ranking members of the Rochester Police Department (RPD) followed suit. Some announced they would be retiring, while others said they would be stepping back to previously-held ranks.

“The entire Rochester Police Department’s command staff has announced their retirement,” Warren told the Rochester City Council at the time. “There may be a number of others who will decide to leave as well.”

Warren further told the council that Chief Singletary “didn’t in any way cover this up,” ABC News reported.

“I do believe he is doing his best,” the mayor added, according to WHEC.

RPD came into contact with Prude on March 23, after receiving a report that he was smashing out storefront windows while claiming to be infected with COVID-19, The Epoch Times reported.

The 41-year-old was naked and covered in blood when officers found him.

Although Prude was initially compliant, he soon began spitting and yelling, resulting in officers placing a spit hood over his head.

Officers ultimately pinned the flailing, yelling suspect to the ground while they waited for an ambulance to arrive, the video showed.

Prude eventually lost consciousness and seemed to vomit a clear liquid, the officers said in the video.

First responders performed chest compressions in the roadway before the suspect was transported to a local hospital.

“So, PCP can cause what we call excited delirium,” one of the EMTs explained to an officer at the scene. “I guarantee you that’s how he coded. It’s not your guys’ fault. I mean, you gotta keep yourselves safe.”

Prude was removed from life support seven days later.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office concluded that Prude’s death was caused by acute PCP intoxication, excited delirium, and “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to court documents.

His manner of death was ruled as a homicide.

Rioters set fire to multiple businesses and smashed out various windows after video footage of Prude’s arrest was released last week, The Epoch Times reported.

Officers were cleared of wrongdoing at the conclusion of an internal investigation, The New York Times reported.

But the New York State Attorney General’s Office has since reopened the matter.

Seven RPD members have been placed on paid administrative leave while the attorney general’s probe continues.

Warren said she directed Rochester Deputy Mayor James Smith to conduct a review into Prude’s death and arrest, FOX News reported.

“Frankly, the public should have been informed of Mr. Prude’s death and the circumstances that led to his death in March, and after seeing the video, I should have conducted a formal review,” she told reporters on Monday.

Smith recommended that the RPD be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, to include a review of all bodycam footage tied to use-of-force incidents over the course of the past three years, the Associated Press reported.

Warren endorsed Smith’s recommendation, and said she has since requested a federal investigation to determine whether or not Prude’s civil rights were violated, according to FOX News.

The investigation would also determine wither or not any city employees violated policy – including herself.

The mayor further noted that she is also going to have outside agencies review the RPD’s training manuals and how they handle Freedom of Information issues, the Associated Press reported.

“I have apologized to the Prude family and this community for the failures that happened along the way, including my own,” Warren told reporters. “As mayor, I own these failures.”

Rochester City Council Public Safety Committee Chairman Willie Lightfoot said that there appeared to be “major breakdowns” in the aftermath of Prude’s detainment, The New York Times reported.

“We need to continue seeking the truth and hold people accountable and bring justice to the Prude family,” Lightfoot said.

RPD Lieutenant Mark Simmons, who stepped back from the rank of deputy chief last week, will take over as interim chief for the next 30 days, Rochester City Hall spokesperson Jessica Alaimo told The New York Times.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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