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Faith Leader’s Roundtable Statement on Daniel Prude’s Death

On March 23, 2020, Rochester Police Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, and Fransisco Santiago murdered Daniel T. Prude. We – faith leaders from across Rochester and Monroe County – send our heartfelt condolences, love, and prayers to Mr. Prude’s loved ones.

For decades black people have made clear that police misconduct is a problem in Rochester, New York. Numerous efforts have been made to address this misconduct and improve how we police in this city. For example, even before her election as mayor, Lovely A. Warren worked to create a police department that reflects the diversity of our city.

In 2015, Mayor Warren led the crusade to require police officers to wear body cameras. In 2018, Mayor Warren held accountable the officers who brutalized Christopher Pate. She referred the officers to the District Attorney for criminal prosecution and terminated Michael Sippel after he was convicted of assault. In 2019 over 75% of voters approved a referendum to establish a Police Accountability Board that would have the power to investigate police misconduct, issue subpoenas, and address police policies.

This month Mayor Warren and Council President Scott called on state lawmakers to pass laws that will require all new officers to live in the City. Numerous efforts have been made to address police misconduct. But even with these reforms, the murder of Daniel T. Prude and the militaristic actions of the Rochester Police Department toward protestors make clear that radical transformation of how we police in Rochester must still take place.

In recent weeks there have been calls for our Mayor to step down. This action however does not address the deep-seated racism that is entrenched in our police department and other institutions in Rochester. It does not address the Rochester Police Locust Club that files lawsuit after lawsuit to stop measures that hold police officers accountable and uses their political contributions to influence politicians to pass laws that enables them to commit misconduct without consequences. It does not address New York state mandated techniques, practices, and policies that police officers are trained to use on our people such as the techniques used in the death of Daniel Prude. It does not address the New York State Civil Service Laws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Locust Club that protects officers who abuse their power. It does not address the police officers and EMT’s who did not put Daniel Prude in a police car after he was arrested or in the ambulance when it arrived. It does not address Michael Mazzeo, the Rochester Police Locust Club President, who protects police offices at all cost, no matter their crime.

Mazzeo himself received a nineteen count federal indictment in 1991 after other officers testified that Mazzeo and members of the H.I.T. Squad threatened, hit, and assaulted black people with pistols and embezzled funds. The calls for Mayor Warren to step down do not address the deep seated racism entrenched in our police department and other institutions.

We stand with and support Mayor Lovely A. Warren. Now this does not mean we will not follow the facts and demand answers from her. We will. But this does mean we demand indictments of Rochester Police Officers Josiah Harris, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Troy Taladay, Mark Vaughn, and Sergeant Michael Magri. This does mean we expect Mayor Warren to push aggressive reforms of the police department on the state level and in contract negotiations with the Rochester Police Locust Club. This does mean we will hold American Medical Response Rochester and Strong Memorial Hospital accountable for their actions. This does mean we call for “justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream (Amos 5:24).”

The Faith Leader’s Roundtable is a collaboration of over 30 predominantly black churches in the Greater Rochester Area