Rochester, N.Y., Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and senior members of his command staff announced their retirements from the force Tuesday amid criticism from city leaders of the handling of the police-involved death of Daniel Prude earlier this year.
Singletary, 40, was appointed chief in April 2019 and leaves with 22 years of service. Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito, who oversees the department’s operations bureau, announced his retirement after nearly 34 years with the police force as well as Commander Fabian Rivera.
Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor will both return to their previous rank of lieutenant, the department said.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren addressed the news of the departures at a news conference.
“I want to ensure our Rochester community that the Rochester police department will continue to serve and protect our residents and neighborhoods,” she said. “Chief Singletary will remain in charge of the department through the end of the month. We have spoke about maintaining restraint through the ongoing protests we as all involved to remain peaceful.”
She noted earlier in the day that the chief was not asked to resign.
Singletary’s leadership had been questioned by Warren and local activists following the March 30 death of Prude. An autopsy determined the 41-year-old died as a result of homicide by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”
Warren has suspended seven officers involved in the death pending an investigation. State Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday she would form a grand jury and conduct her own probe into Prude’s death.
Officers allegedly placed a spit hood over Prude and pressed his head onto the pavement for two minutes during a March 23 encounter that began when Prude’s relatives called authorities to report he was experiencing mental health issues.
Officers found him naked on the street and put the hood over his head to prevent him from spitting. The death sparked outrage and became the lastest in a string of incidents involving the police and a person of color that has been met with widespread protests.
Demonstrations have taken place in the city for several consecutive nights.
Last week, Warren said Singletary told her Prude died from a drug overdose and did not inform her of the officers’ actions until August. In a Tuesday news release, Singletary said his actions were being mischaracterized.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character. The events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity,” he said, according to the news station. “The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for.”
Warren noted that she believed Singletary did not try to cover up the officers’ actions. Calls and messages to the city and the Rochester Police Department from Fox News were not immediately returned.
Anthony Romanucci, the attorney for Prude’s children, applauded the departures.
“The resignation of the Police Chief in Rochester is an important and necessary step to healing and meaningful reform in the community,” he said in a statement. “Clearly, the conduct of the officers in Mr. Prude’s case was inhumane, and the subsequent cover-up was unacceptable.”
President Trump tweeted about the resignations while attempting to reaffirm himself as a law and order president.
“Police Chief, and most of the police in Rochester, N.Y., have resigned,” he wrote. “The Democrat Mayor and, of courses, Governor Cuomo, have no idea what to do. New York State is a mess – No Money, High Taxes & Crime, Everyone Fleeing. November 3rd. We can fix it!”
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said the officers leaving the department will be missed.
“I have worked closely with all of these men and I know of their honesty and integrity,” she tweeted.
Meanwhile, local activists cheered news of Singletary’s departure.
“This is great news,” said Iman Abid, speaking for Free the People ROC, which has held nightly protests since details of Prude’s death emerged. “It says to the people that people are able to move things and to shape things. The police chief wouldn’t retire if it weren’t for something that he felt he was accountable to.”
Activists have also called for Warren’s resignation.
It was not clear when the retirements for Morabito and Rivera would take effect. Also unclear was who will be in charge of the police department.
Singletary announced his retirement just before a 3 p.m. briefing with the council. He said he looks “forward to continuing to serve our community in my next chapter.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.