Rochester Mayor Sends Police Chief Packing Ahead Of His Retirement Over Handling Of Daniel Prude Death
The police chief had originally planned to retire at the end of the month.
September 15, 2020 at 9:39 pm
Update (September 15, 2020): Just days after Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary announced he would be retiring at the end of the month, Mayor Lovely Warren decided to speed up the decision, firing Singletary due to his actions in the Daniel Prude case, CBS News reported.
Video of Prude’s death has sparked protests in the city and outrage against police officials who hid the fact that a medical examiner said he died of asphyxia.
Warren tasked Deputy Mayor James Smith with investigating what happened with Prude’s death and why it took months for city officials outside of the police department to be notified about what happened.
Smith released the 323-page report revealing what happened. The findings of the report led to Warren firing Singletary and suspending communications director Justin Roj and the city's top lawyer Tim Curtin.
"This initial look has shown that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. Never again can we allow any man or woman to needlessly die in police custody," Warren said during a press conference.
She added that Singletary’s last day as police chief would now be Monday, instead of the end of the month.
Prude died in police custody on March 23 but according to James’ report, no one from the mayor’s office was told about the situation until the middle of April. But even when Singletary told Roj about what happened, he lied about the details of the situation.
In emails attached to the report, Singletary told Roj that Prude died from a combination of PCP intoxication, excited delirium and "resisting arrest." The medical examiner said Prude died from PCP intoxication, excited delirium and "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint."
Despite police involvement in Prude’s death, Singletary did not attach the medical examiner’s report and did not include the startling bodycam footage that would later be released.
"This email is decidedly inconsistent with interactions between previous Chiefs and the Communications Director, and could be seen as less than forthright. It must be asked why Chief Singletary presented Director Roj with such a limited view of the situation," Smith said in the report.
The report follows up statements from Warren that said Singletary repeatedly downplayed Prude’s death and said he died of an overdose. It was only until she saw the police video herself in August that she realized what actually happened.
Roj released a statement on Twitter apologizing for his mistake, and Warren has called on federal investigators to look into what happened with Prude’s death.
“It was communicated by Chief Singletary in his email that the Mayor and Law Department were already informed. Therefore, I did not make either aware of what occurred since the Chief stated he fulfilled his responsibility to do so. In hindsight, I agree that I should have questioned the Chief further and/or taken the opportunity to discuss his email with the Mayor," Roj said on Twitter.
My statement regarding Mayor Warren's actions today: pic.twitter.com/0w0QUE1WOi— Justin Roj (@JustinRoj) September 14, 2020
In response to criticism of the police force, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary announced on Tuesday that he was retiring from the force along with his entire command staff, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
The 40-year-old took the post last year and his decision shocked city council members, who are now scrambling to find his replacement.
Singletary has been part of the force for exactly 20 years, and Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito as well as Deputy Chief Mark Simmons followed him on his way out.
For more than a week, protesters have been calling for Singletary and Mayor Lovely Warren to step down from their posts after video showed several officers pressing Prude's face into the concrete as he kneeled naked in the middle of the street.
In the aftermath of the video's release, Warren accused Singletary of mishandling the arrest and said he should have briefed her on what happened sooner. Prude died in police custody in March but Warren said she was only notified in August.
"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. The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for," Singletary said in a statement.
"The mischaracterization and politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for," he added.
Despite the accusations and calls for both leaders to step down, Warren said she supported Singletary and wanted him to stay on as police chief on Sunday.
But on Tuesday, during a city council meeting, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that Warren was the one to notify everyone of Singletary's decision and said she only learned of it right before the meeting.
“I think that the chief feels that his career and his integrity you know, has been challenged, he has dedicated 20 years to the city and to the citizens of Rochester, and feels that you know, the events that have happened, were not done in a way that…you know, could have been handled differently. But, you know, he didn’t in any way try to cover this up,” she said.
"Unfortunately, I do not want to advise you that the entire Rochester police command staff have announced their retirement," Warren added. "That includes the police chief, that includes Deputy Chief Morabito, also I believe Deputy Chief Simmons, and there may be a number of others who may decide to leave and/or retire."
City Council members said they were "floored" because when they signed into the Zoom meeting, they expected Singletary to log on as well, only to receive his resignation minutes later.
Singletary was born and raised in Rochester and worked his way up from an intern to ultimately becoming a police chief last April.
Seven officers have been suspended for their role in Prude's arrest and death, as Blavity previously reported. Prude died of asphyxiation after officers held him down with a "spit hood" over his face.