Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Published 7:06 PM EDT Sep 14, 2020
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Mayor Lovely Warren on Monday announced she is relieving Police Chief La’Ron Singletary of his command and requested a federal investigations into the death of Daniel Prude and of the Police Department.
The announcement came in the wake of protests over the death of Daniel Prude, the resignation of the entire RPD command staff, and calls for the mayor to resign as well. Warren took no questions.
She also did not say who would immediately replace Singletary, leaving the police department without a public leader.
Singletary was not informed ahead of time but rather found out when one of the RPD commanders saw it on Twitter, he said via text message to a reporter. He had just left a virtual briefing with the mayor and City Council.
“We have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge,” the mayor said, adding: “The culture of policing in Rochester must change.”
Prude died in March from injuries sustained while being restrained by police. The death did not become public knowledge until this month, however, when the Prude family held a news conference and released video obtained from police body-worn cameras.
Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj have been suspended for 30 days without pay. The mayor’s announcement came during a hastily called news conference at City Hall moments after concluding the City Council briefing in which she sat alongside Curtin.
There was no mention of either during the briefing.
Singletary and his command staff announced last week that they were retiring or resigning their command positions. The resignations were to be effective Sept. 29.
That announcement was delivered in similar stunning fashion, at the start of a similar briefing as was held on Monday. Warren appeared late to that session, having just learned of the chief’s decision.
Warren outlined a series of measures Monday, saying that a preliminary review by Deputy Mayor James Smith had provided the groundwork for the measures.
She said the city’s Office of Public Integrity would “determine if any employees — including herself — violated city or departmental policies or ethical standards.” And that the city would bring in an outside agency to assess police training manuals, general orders and regulations, as well as the city’s open records process.
The Prude family lawyer requested video in the case back in April but the city did not fulfill the demand until August.
Warren previously announced that seven officers connected to Prude’s case had been suspended with pay.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James is investigating and has said she will impanel a grand jury. Warren on Monday added requests for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice top get involved.
“Frankly, the public should have been informed of Mr. Prude’s death and the circumstances that led to his death in March,” Warren said, adding that she should have initiated this move after she saw the video last month.
She promised a “robust” and public-driven process to reform RPD and City Hall.
In a statement Roj posted on twitter, the city spokesman said he accepted the discipline.
“I personally believe that Mr. Prude would be alive today if the responding officers recogized his humanity, and acted with compassion and restraint,” he continued.
Follow reporter Brian Sharp on Twitter: @sharproc.