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Warren Suspends Seven Officers, Reprimands Chief for Actions in Death of Daniel Prude

Mayor Warren on actions taken after death of Daniel PrudePosted by Minority Reporter on Thursday, September 3, 2020

Patti Singer

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren during a Sept. 3, 2020 news conference about the death of Daniel Prude. Warren was with her cousin Ebony Fairwell, whose grandfather in 1962 received a settlement from the city for police mistreatment. Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Seven members of the Rochester Police Department have been suspended and the chief has been reprimanded by Mayor Lovely Warren, who said the police, the mental health care system – and she – failed Daniel Prude.

“For that, I apologize to the Prude family and all of our community,” Warren said at a Sept. 3 news conference at City Hall.

Warren said she was acting against the advice of the city’s lawyers.

Prude’s encounter with the police, seen on body camera footage, and his death have become another rallying cry for social justice. The Monroe County Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Warren started the news conference by saying that in 1962, her cousin’s grandfather was a victim of police brutality. Rufus Fairwell became the first person in Rochester to receive a settlement for his suffering.

“It is now September 2020 and Daniel Prude’s death has proven yet again that many of the challenges we faced then still exist today.”

Warren said there are two systems at play — one for Blacks and one for whites — in education, health care and justice.

“… I am taking action to address these challenges and build upon our city’s work to address racism in all its forms,” she said.

Warren announced she was:

  • Suspending seven from RPD: Sgt. Michael Magri; Officer Josiah Harris; Officer Paul Ricotta; Officer Francisco Santiago; Officer Andrew Specksgoor; Officer Troy Taladay; Officer Mark Vaughn. Three of the officers appear on body camera footage to have direct contact with Prude, but Warren said the others should have intervened when they saw their colleagues’ conduct.
  • Reprimanding Chief La’Ron Singletary. The mayor said the chief failed to “fully and accurately” inform her what happened to Prude on March 23. The chief has to provide a plan within 30 days to address the department’s response to mental health calls, give the mayor two briefings on the criminal and internal investigations and provide her video within 24 hours of any in-custody death or use-of-force incident. She said she did not plan to fire Singletary.
  • Immediately improving mental health response. The city will provide more money and pair mental health professionals and law enforcement for 911 calls. The county’s Forensic Intervention Team or the city’s Family Crisis Intervention Team be used on calls related to mental health.
  • Seeking to talk with the Prude family about his life and with Black Lives Matter protesters on their policy ideas.
  • Asking the Race and Structural Equity Commission remove Singletary and police union president Mike Mazzeo “so its important work would not be limited by their involvement.”

“As a mayor, mother, sister, daughter and as a Black woman, I am filled with grief and anger at myself for all of the failures that led to his death,” Warren said. “I must do better as the leader of this community, my fellow elected officials must do better, our police must be better, our health care system must do better and our entire society must make these changes a priority. We can’t continue to fail Black lives in this way. We can’t improve our city and our nation until we do.”

Warren addressed the timeline on March 23, which began when Prude’s brother called 911 over concern about his safety. Warren said Singletary told her later that day that Prude had an apparent drug overdose but didn’t tell her that officers forcibly restrained him.

She said she learned of the actions on Aug. 4 when corporation counsel Tim Curtin reviewed video while fulfilling a Freedom of Information Law request from the family’s attorney. Warren said that was first time she knew what happened.

The family’s attorney released the body camera video and police reports to the media earlier this week.

The intervening time has led critics to charge that the city was involved in a coverup.

Warren said earlier in the week that the city was not able to do its own investigation while the state was pursuing as required by an executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo after the death of Eric Garner. However, on Sept. 3, Attorney General Letitia James encourage the city and the RPD to do their own investigations concurrent with the state’s.

According to a statement from city spokesman Justin Roj:

“On June 4, Stephanie Prince, an attorney for the City’s Law Department spoke with Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sommers who confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation. Ms. Sommers also stated that, while she cannot legally advise us what to do, she asks that the City withhold the release of information including the body-worn camera footage, as the release will interfere with the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation. The City complied with the Attorney General’s office request.”

However, on Sept. 3, Attorney General Letitia James encouraged the city and the RPD to do their own investigations concurrent with the state’s.