On Tuesday, the chief of the Rochester Police Department suddenly stepped down, joined by many of his senior department aides. The resignation comes amid backlash and protests against the department in the aftermath of the death of Daniel Prude.
Chief La’Ron Singletary said there was a “mischaracterization and politicization” of his actions following Prude’s death.
After footage of Prude’s death was released last week, demonstrators took to the streets in Rochester, demanding justice.
Prude, 41, was pronounced brain dead after a March 23 encounter with police. He died a week later. His brother, Joe Prude, noticed Daniel acting strangely and called the police after Daniel suddenly ran out the back door at 3 a.m. on a snowy night. Responding officers caught up to Prude on a street not far from the home and found him nude.
After initially handcuffing Prude and sitting him on the ground with a spit mask over his head, when the still-seated man complained about the mask the officers rushed him and pinned him to the ground until he was no longer breathing. Prude was unarmed and footage showed that he was complying with officers’ orders throughout the encounter.
Prude’s death was ruled a homicide by asphyxiation by the medical examiner, who cited PCP intoxication as a contributing factor. He was experiencing a psychotic episode at the time of his detention by police.
In a statement, Singletary said he felt honored to have served on the force for 20 years, but called the backlash he’s faced in the days since the details of Prude’s death were made public “an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”
Although protesters had called for Singletary to resign, he said on Sunday that he would not step down.
“The mischaracterization and the 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,” Singletary said.
Singletary’s resignation will go into effect on Sept. 29. Six other department leaders comprising the entire command staff said they would step down as well.
Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito, who served with the department for 34 years, and Cmdr. Fabian Rivera and Cmdr. Elena Correia each announced their retirement. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons, Cmdr. Henry Favor and Deputy Chief Mark Mura all returned to lower ranks.
Attorney Antonio Romanucci, who is representing Prude’s family, said Singletary’s resignation is “an important and necessary step to healing and meaningful reform in the community.”
Mayor Lovely Warren said neither Singletary nor members of the command staff were asked to resign. Warren originally backed the police chief when he said on Sunday that he would not resign.
“He didn’t in any way try to cover this up,” Warren said to the city council.
Protesters and police have clashed since Prude’s death came to light, and officers have used tear gas and pepper spray against demonstrators who reportedly threw bottles and rocks.
Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay as the New York Attorney General’s Office investigates. A grand jury will decide whether the officers involved in Prude’s death should face criminal charges.