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Warren, RPD Answer City Council Questions About Protests, Transition

Patti Singer

Police line up on Exchange Boulevard at Broad Street on a night of protests over the death of Daniel Prude. Photo by Joshua McCleary/Minority Reporter Media Group

Mayor Lovely Warren is preparing to select an interim chief to succeed La’Ron Singletary, who is retiring as of Sept. 29.

Warren said she does not want to spend money now on a national search.

“I don’t think we would get a person that would come at this point in time,” she said Sept. 10 during an online briefing with City Council and Singletary and his command staff.

Warren did not say why that was her belief. She said she expected an interim chief to serve until June 2021. She said once she made the appointment, that person would work with Singletary on a transition plan.

Deputy chiefs Mark Simmons, Mark Mura and Joseph Morabito were on the video call. Morabito is retiring. Commander Fabian Rivera also participated, and he, too, announced his retirement Sept. 8 as the Rochester Police Department command staff announced an en masse exit amid the controversy over the in-custody death of Daniel Prude in March. Mura and Simmons are returning to lower ranks.

City Council first called a briefing on Sept. 8 to get updated on RPD response to protests after Prude’s death became public on Sept. 2. Warren told them that the staff was retiring or seeking reassignment. Council ended the briefing and when it met again Sept. 9, RPD was not represented and several questions about its handling of the protests had to wait one more day.

Among the topics discussed on Sept. 10:

What can be done to maintain the less-imposing presence at the Public Safety Building since Sept. 6? Warren said she talked with Singletary about tactics after violence over the weekend, and she said the presence of elders starting Sept. 6 has calmed the situation. Singletary said the response Sept. 4 and 5 was precipitated by what he called agitators in the crowd throwing rocks, bottles and incendiary devices at police. Simmons said officers warned the crowd to disperse before deploying pepper balls to protect officers and citizens. Simmons said the vast majority of protesters want a peaceful event and RPD has tried to deescalate when that is disrupted. He said he appreciated the work of elders and of people in the crowd who have preached restraint.

Why are officers covering their name tags? Morabito said he approved officers being able to cover their names for safety reasons. He said protesters have gone online and found personal information of officers while they were face to face with the officer during the protest. Warren said that each officer can be identified by the number of the body worn camera. Warren said the city’s law team was looking into regulations about the display of name tags and badge numbers.

Why are State Police and Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies on the scene? Warren said the assistance is needed so that RPD still must respond to 911 calls and be in neighborhoods.

Why does the State Police have dogs at the scene? The dogs are part of the protocol. Warren said that when the governor’s office called to check on the situation, she asked if the dogs could be removed. She said the governor’s team would follow up.

What are the overtime costs? The costs haven’t been added up. However, command staff said that many officers are working eight, 10 or 12 hours beyond their normal shift.