Rochester police chief out in fallout over death of Daniel Prude

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In this image taken from police body camera video provided by Roth and Roth LLP, a Rochester police officer puts a hood over the head of Daniel Prude, on March 23, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y. Video of Prude, a Black man who had run naked through the streets of the western New York city, died of asphyxiation after a group of police officers put a hood over his head, then pressed his face into the pavement for two minutes, according to video and records released Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, by the man’s family. Prude died March 30 after he was taken off life support, seven days after the encounter with police in Rochester. (Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP)

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired the police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.

Chief Le’Ron Singletary announced his retirement last week as part of a major shakeup of the city’s police leadership but said he would stay on through the end of the month.

Instead, Warren said at a news conference that she had permanently relieved him while suspending Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days following a cursory management review of the city’s role in Prude’s death.

“This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said. “One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewd the case throughout city government at every level.”

Officers found Prude running naked down the street in March, handcuffed him and put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.

His death has sparked nearly two weeks of nightly protests and calls for Warren’s resignation after his relatives released police body camera video and written reports they obtained through a public records request.

Warren said the review had produced eight recommendations, including that the city’s Office of Public Integrity investigate whether she or any other employees violated city policies or ethical standards.

The review by Deputy Mayor James Smith also recommended that the U.S. Justice Department conduct a review of the Rochester Police Department, including a review of all body-worn camera footage for use-of-force arrests over the past three years.

Warren said she would move forward with those and the other recommendations, which include having outside agencies review police training manuals and Freedom of Information Law procedures.

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

Roj said he accepted the suspension, but claimed he was not aware of what happened to Prude until Aug. 4. He said Singletary told him in an email of an ongoing criminal investigation and that the mayor was already informed.

“In hindsight, I agree I should have questioned the Chief further and/or taken the opportunity to discuss his email with the Mayor,” Roj said in a statement posted on Twitter.

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