Former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said disclosing that Daniel Prude had died after an encounter with officers of the Rochester Police Department did not come up when he talked with Mayor Lovely Warren.
“We always took this incident seriously,” Singletary said Feb. 5 in his deposition as part of an independent City Council investigation into the communication between and among city officials about the death of Mr. Prude.
“It just wasn’t any conversation that the mayor and I had with releasing this publicly” Singletary said.
Singletary gave his deposition via videoconference to Andrew Celli Jr., of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, the firm hired by City Council to conduct the investigation.
When Celli asked Singletary whether he reflected on his own about whether the public should know about the circumstances of Mr. Prude’s encounter on March 23, 2020 and his death March 30, he said, “It never occurred to me.”
After issuing subpoenas to the mayor and several others in city government, Celli went to court in December to compel Singletary to testify.
In January, Celli and Singletary’s attorneys reached an agreement to have the former chief provide testimony in a public forum. All other depositions were taken in private.
The deposition wasn’t the same as a court proceeding. There were no opening or closing statements, and rules of evidence did not apply. The questions were relevant to the investigation in the broadest sense possible. While the questions centered on the content of text messages and emails, at one point they did range afield. Celli asked Singletary whether he had planned to run for mayor. Singletary said people had suggested he should run and he said he told the mayor he would never run against her.
Celli said that unlike a trial where questions follow a timeline, a deposition is arranged by themes.
The more than eight hours of testimony covered what Singletary said he told the mayor about the incident and questions about why, even after Warren saw the body camera video, the public was not told of the death.
Mr. Prude’s family announced the death on Sept. 2.
There was lengthy discussion about how Singletary interpreted the medical examiner’s report that listed cause of death as homicide. He said that when Warren eventually saw the body camera footage, she said Mr. Prude had been murdered. Singletary said he and the mayor disagreed on that description.
There were continued discussions on the difference of opinion that Warren and Singletary had about the video.
There also were questions about why the officers were not disciplined, with Singletary saying that investigations into the incident had not been completed.
He also asked what effect the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May had on Rochester officials not announcing the death of Daniel Prude that had occurred three months earlier. Among the dozens of documents shown at the deposition, Celli showed ones in which ranking members of the RPD expressed concern about how the news would be received and perceived.
Celli asked Singletary questions about the wording he used in emails and texts, to the point of getting the former chief to differentiate between “stabilization” and “segmenting,” the techniques that came under scrutiny after Mr. Prude died.
Celli also asked about what influence the investigation by the state Attorney General had on the discussions about announcing the death, the internal review and criminal investigations conducted by the RPD and how Singletary described to the mayor the details of the event. Several lines of questioning reviewed what Singletary had laid out in the notice of claim he filed in December against the city. Celli also asked about what led Singletary to announce his retirement in the aftermath of Prude’s death becoming public.