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Police Union Adds to Calls for Fair Investigation into Daniel Prude’s Death

Patti Singer

Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo talks to the media Sept. 4, 2020 about the death of Daniel Prude. Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

In the few days since Daniel Prude’s death became public, questions about what happened and calls for thorough investigations have been asked by the family, by the public, by protesters for racial and social justice, by politicians – and by police.

“We’re hopeful the state Attorney General’s Office will continue to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into the facts of the matter,” Rochester Police Locust Club President Mike Mazzeo said at a Sept. 4 news conference. “We believe, we more than believe, we know, there’s a substantial amount of information to adequately determine what the circumstances are surrounding the death of Daniel Prude.”

Mazzeo said the process must be transparent and that all evidence be released so that the public understands the context of the decision.

“Whatever the conclusion is, it is,” he said.

“There’s one message that can be taken from here today, it should be this: Our country is in crisis,” he said. “There are many changes that are needed. Some are very complicated, some answers are already known. … Seeking the truth, nothing more should be our solution to solving our most pressing problem. Everyone has a responsibility and must be committed to making that process not just better but perfect. It’s not only to go take commitment, it will take trust.”

Mazzeo’s statements were the most recent in a string of news conferences after Prude’s death was announced by his family and body-worn camera footage of his encounter with police was released to the media.

According to the Monroe County Medical Examiner, Prude died from “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restrain, excited delirium and acute phencyclidine intoxication. The medical examiner ruled the manner of death a homicide. The medical examiner’s report includes donation of Prude’s liver and left kidney.

Police had been called by Joseph Prude, who was concerned for his brother’s safety after he was released by Strong Memorial Hospital for a mental health evaluation. Joseph Prude told police who responded to his house that he feared his brother was going to harm himself. Different officers came upon Prude on Jefferson Avenue.

The situation has renewed calls for improving help for people in a mental health crisis and posed the question of whether mental health professionals are better suited than police to respond in those situations.

“I absolutely believe we need more help,” Mazzeo said. “We definitely need changes. What we have to understand is how do we do that … ?”

Mazzeo also called for training protocols to be reviewed. He said the officers recently had been trained on the techniques they used. He said the training comes from the state, and that officers cannot deviate from what they are taught or they will face discipline.

“They had to do exactly what they did … The officers have no interest in having an individual on the ground,” he said. They have no other recourse until the ambulance can get there and until the gurney can get there.”

Earlier in the week, news conferences with Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief La’Ron Singletary addressed a timeline. The encounter with police was March 23. Prude died March 30. That it took several months for the event to be public drew questions about openness.

Warren said she was initially was told by Singletary that Prude had a suffered a drug overdose. She said she didn’t learn the extent of the situation until early August, when the city was filling a Freedom of Information request from the family’s attorney and was preparing to release the body camera footage.

Mazzeo said that in the days immediately after the incident, the officers involved were asked to talk with the Major Crimes Unit, which was conducting an investigation. Mazzeo said the officers cooperated and he was told the belief was the officers followed protocol.

At one point, the mayor said the city was not able to do its own investigation because the attorney general was involved, according to an executive order from the governor following the death of Eric Garner.

However, on Sept. 3, the attorney general said its office had not asked the city to refrain from doing its own investigation and in fact encouraged the city and the police department to do their own investigations.