On March 23, in Rochester, New York, a naked and unarmed 41-year-old Black man named Daniel Prude died while being detained by Rochester Police Department officers. RPD officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, and Francisco Santiago were responding to calls from Prude’s brother, Joe Prude, that Daniel was having some kind of “mental health crisis.” On Sept. 2, almost six months after Daniel died, body camera video was finally released to the public, and it told a very disturbing story. The video showed police arresting a naked Prude, putting a bag over his head, mocking him, and then putting their weight on him, pressing him to the floor, as Prude gasped his final breaths.
Prude was declared braindead upon arrival at a local hospital and died on March 30, after he was taken off of life support by his family. On Tuesday, following days of protests, Police Chief La’Ron Singletary retired, along with Deputy Chief Joe Morabito and Commander Fabian Rivera. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor reportedly were demoted to their previous ranks as lieutenants. Singletary was a 20-year veteran while Morabito had been with the RPD for 34 years. Mayor Lovely Warren made the announcement during a virtual town hall meeting Singletary was scheduled to show up at, but did not. “The chief has felt that his career and his integrity has been challenged,” Warren said during the announcement.
In a statement, Singletary said, “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.” Singletary went on to blame a “mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death,” saying what was being said was “not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.”
Warren said she had not asked for the police chief’s resignation. News outlets pointed to Mayor Warren’s statement last week that “l have addressed with Police Chief La’Ron Singletary how deeply disappointed I am in him personally and professionally for failing to fully and accurately inform me about what occurred to Mr. Prude. He knows he needs to do better to truly protect and serve our community and I know he will.”
Last week, Warren suspended seven officers involved with the arrest, as state Attorney General Letitia James said she would be forming a grand jury to investigate this nine-month-old case. On Tuesday, Warren told reporters that she expected more resignations.
Singletary may be correct that the public doesn’t have the full story regarding the corruption of the law enforcement apparatus and judicial process in Rochester, New York, especially in regard to Black people and their human rights. But the idea that his made-up sense of integrity and character shouldn’t be impugned after he sat silently for months, seemingly handing out zero punishments to his officers or information to the Prude family when it came to this citizen’s inhumane treatment and death, is only laughable if that will hurt his feelings.
At the same time, the Prude family is suing the city of Rochester, now-former police chief Singletary, as well as Simmons, Favor, Vaughn, Taladay, and Santiago, as well as other law enforcement officials and officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death. The family is asking a federal court to make the Rochester Police Department reform its process for investigating incidents in which officers use force.