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RPD: Results of Internal Investigation into Death of Daniel Prude Expected in April

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

A protester marches down Main Street on March 23, 2021, one year after Daniel Prude’s fatal encounter with Rochester police officers on Jefferson Avenue. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

The Rochester Police Department’s investigation into the conduct of the officers who restrained Daniel Prude on the street last March could conclude in April, Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan told City Council on March 19.

Herriott-Sullivan was responding to a resolution from City Council on March 16 that urged the city to take immediate disciplinary action and recommended that the administration and the chief consider firing the officers.

If charges were filed, the department would have to follow civil service rules in place under the current collective bargaining agreement.

The resolution was adopted by council March 16 and came in the week leading up to the one-year commemoration of encounter between Daniel Prude and Rochester police officers at around 3 a.m. March 23, 2020.

Prude lost consciousness during the encounter and had been revived. He died March 30, 2020. The Monroe County medical examiner ruled the cause of death was complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint, excited delirium and acute phencyclidine intoxication. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.

A year later, protesters marked Daniel’s Day with a day of remembrance and a call for justice in the name of Daniel Prude. Events were scheduled for the morning, starting at Parcel 5, and for the evening on Child Street, where Daniel Prude’s brother lives.

The event was organized by Free the People Roc.

About 100 people turned out for the morning march that went from Parcel 5 to the RTS Transit Center and along East Avenue. Organizers called for the resignation of Mayor Lovely Warren, more government accountability and passage of Daniel’s Law, statewide legislation that would establish mental health response teams to handle emergency situations.

Marchers went to Wegmans on East Avenue, where protests led the company to close the store.

A marcher documents speakers at the intersection of East Avenue and Alexander Street. Protesters continued down East Avenue to Wegmans, resulting in the store being closed. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

The resolution from City Council was drafted after the Office of the Attorney General announced a grand jury had voted not to indict officers implicated in the death of Daniel Prude.

The resolution stated that council believed city residents have a right to see the matter concluded and see justice served and demanded that city administration and the police chief move immediately and expeditiously with discipline.

The resolution was signed by President Loretta Scott, Vice President Willie Lightfoot and members Malik Evans, Mitch Gruber, LaShay Harris, Mary Lupien, Miguel Meléndez and Michael Patterson.

Council member Jose Peo did not sign the resolution. He said it was likely that if the city fired the officers, they would sue – costing the taxpayers money they can’t afford and making it more difficult for a future chief to fire them if that were warranted in the future.

“If we want true reform, we must start with the legislation process in Albany, and here with our City Council,” he wrote in a news release. “Signing onto a letter of statement or request issued by the City Council will not result in the changes that our city residents have continually asked for. It is extremely short-sighted and politicized. … “

Herriott-Sullivan addressed her response to Scott.

She explained the process she must follow after the investigation is complete:

  • In the event departmental charges are recommended, the officers must be provided with an opportunity to be heard.
  • The member is then permitted a minimum of 10 days to respond to the charges.
  • The member is then served with formal charges.
  • The member must then plead guilty or not guilty.
  • If a member elects to enter a not guilty plea, a hearing must be scheduled. This process takes approximately 30 days by the hearing officer. She wrote that with five staff members involved, the process could take several months.
  • After the hearing process, both Corporation Council and the member’s attorneys submit briefs, which takes approximately 30 days.
  • The hearing officer prepares a brief after receiving the attorney’s documents and submits them to the chief of police who must then prepare a summary within 30 days

Also in March, results were released of the independent investigation commissioned by City Council into how city officials communicated among each other about the death of Daniel Prude, who knew what and when they learned the information.

Independent investigator Andrew Celli Jr. found that Mayor Lovely Warren and several high-ranking officials knew about the death weeks or months before the Prude family went public, and the investigator said they had suppressed information.