Just days after saying he was not going to resign and the mayor said she was not planning to fire him, Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary announced he was going to retire.
It was the latest development in a tumultuous week since the in-custody death of Daniel Prude, which happened in March but came to light in September when his family announced details.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” Singletary said in a statement. “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. 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.”
The retirement takes effect at the end of September.
“Chief Singletary will remain in charge of the department through the end of the month and I know that he and our officers will fulfill their duty,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement at a news conference.
“I want to assure our community that the Rochester Police Department will continue to serve and protect our residents and our neighborhoods,” she said.
The news came at the start of what was supposed to a briefing on Sept. 8 by her and Singletary to City Council on the state of the protests that been going on nightly since the death of Daniel Prude was announced last week.
Warren was a few minutes late to the 3 p.m. teleconference. When she joined, she said Singletary had just told her he was retiring. City Council ended the briefing and said it would resume another time.
In all, seven members of the RPD command staff announced on Sept. 8 that they would retire or a return to a previously held position:
- Chief LaRon Singletary, retirement
- Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito, retirement
- Deputy Chief Mark Mura, return to captain
- Deputy Chief Mark Simmons, return to lieutenant
- Commander Fabian Rivera, retirement
- Commander Henry Favor, returned to lieutenant
- Commander Elena Correia, retirement
The mayor gave the effective date only for Singletary.
The announcements are another development in the fallout over the death of Daniel Prude.
The 41-year-old died March 30 after an encounter March 23 with police officers on Jefferson Avenue. The public did not know about the death until Prude’s family released video and documents Sept. 2.
The mayor said she learned details of the encounter with police on Aug. 4, when the city’s law team was fulfilling a Freedom of Information Law request submitted by the family. Once the news came out, though, there were questions of why the city didn’t announce the death.
The timeline has led to accusations of a cover-up. An announcement by the state Attorney General of an investigation led to questions about why the city and police department weren’t investigating. The city has since announced it would investigate.
The result has been a week of protests, calls for Singletary’s and Warren’s resignations, demands that the officers be prosecuted and that more mental health services be provided on calls involving people in emotional distress.
The mayor also instituted changes in the department, requiring Singletary to brief her within 24 hours of use of force on an in-custody death. She also had instructed the chief to have officers show restraint when faced with protesters. She asked that all involved in protests remain peaceful.
Singletary came up through the RPD and had served as chief for about 18 months.
“I had no idea that he was contemplating retirement,” City Council President Loretta Scott said at a separate news conference.
The chief is selected by the mayor and confirmed by City Council. No timetable was given for finding or naming a replacement.
“I know there are many questions,” Warren read in her statement. “But this just occurred and I honestly don’t have the answers today.”
Scott was asked about the process for selecting a chief, and whether a resume that includes knowledge, experience or attributes in fields such as mental health or racial equity would be attractive qualities for a city that has said it wants to reimagine policing.
She said the systems need to change, but she did not elaborate.
Rochester and its police force have made international news. Asked how that notoriety will affect the city’s search for a new chief, Scott said, “We’ve never had this kind of environment. Having said that, I believe there are applicants who would welcome the challenge of coming to help us in going forward.”
Asked whether the volume of the retirements was a message to the city, Willie Lightfoot, council vice president and chairman of the public safety committee, said that retirement is a personal decision. “I support their decision.”
While Singletary’s retirement is the headline, the retirement or reassignment of others likely will be felt across the city. For example, Commander Fabian Rivera was worked with residents to address quality of life issues in neighborhoods. Lightfoot called Rivera’s departure “a huge blow” but said there are others who can continue the work.
The Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Christian Leadership Ministry and advocate for police reform, said Singletary is a good man but that RPD was not as transparent or accountable as it could have been. He said the mounting pressure from RPD’s involvement in Prude’s death, the protests and what Stewart said was mayor not being forthcoming about Prude proved overwhelming.
Here is Singletary’s retirement announcement:
“Today, after 20 years of dedicated service to the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Community, I announce my retirement from the Rochester Police Department. For the past two decades, I have served this community with honor, pride, and the highest integrity.
“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. 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.
“I would like to thank the men and women of the Rochester Police Department, as well as the Rochester Community for allowing me the honor of serving as your Chief and fulfilling a lifelong dream. I look forward to continuing to serve our community in my next chapter.”
Here is Morabito’s statement:
“Today, after almost 34 years of dedicated service to the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Community, I announce my retirement from the Rochester Police Department. It has been my extreme honor to serve with and lead the most dedicated law enforcement professionals in the country.
“It has also been my honor to serve this community through these many years; a community I was born and raised in, and deeply love. I have often reflected on my time growing up in this City, and the many friends and neighbors who helped guide me and encouraged my decision to become an officer. I have never regretted that decision, and the people who I have had the privilege of assisting throughout my service, and will always consider my membership with the Rochester Police Department as one of the proudest achievements of my lifetime.”