Law & the Courts

Rochester Mayor Fires Police Chief over Handling of Daniel Prude’s Death

Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary speaks during a news conference with Mayor Lovely Warren regarding the protests over the death of Daniel Prude on March 23 in Rochester, N.Y., September 6, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Rochester, N.Y. mayor Lovely Warren fired the city’s police chief Monday and called for a federal civil rights investigation into the death of a black man who died after officers placed him in a hood, as well as other arrests over the last three years.

Police chief La’Ron Singletary and other senior police command members tendered their resignations last week in the wake of backlash and unrest over the death of 41-year-old Daniel Prude in March. Singletary was set to step down on September 29 when the mayor abruptly relieved him of his duty. 

“We have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge,” Warren said Monday in a news conference. “The culture of policing in Rochester must change.”

“I have directed the deputy mayor to initiative an internal management review of the city handling of the mental hygiene arrest and subsequent death of Daniel Prude,” Warren said. “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.”

Prude died of suffocation in March one week after police reportedly placed a “spit hood” over his head and pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes. When police detained him, Prude had been running through the streets naked while trying to spit on people and announcing he had COVID. The police were called by Prude’s brother, who became concerned after Prude ran out of his house.

A medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint,” according to Fox News.

The case attracted renewed attention recently when Prude’s family released body camera footage of the incident.

The mayor also announced the suspension of the city’s spokesman and attorney for 30 days.

“Mr. 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,” Ms. Warren said.   

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Warren suspended, with pay, seven officers involved in Prude’s death. 

The mayor has called for a federal investigation to determine whether Prude’s civil rights were violated and asked the city’s Office of Public Integrity to investigate if any city employees, herself included, broke any city or police department rules.

Warren requested that the Justice Department conduct a review of the police department and that the city hire an outside agency to review training manuals and regulations for police officers. 

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