A makeshift memorial is seen, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y., near the site where Daniel Prude was restrained by police officers.
Adrian Kraus | AP
Rochester, New York’s police chief abruptly resigned on Tuesday along with his command staff, saying there had been a “mischaracterization and politicization” of his actions following the death of Daniel Prude in police custody.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told a City Council meeting that she had not asked Chief La’Ron Singletary to resign, though she said there was “information that was brought to light today that I have not previously seen before.” She did not elaborate.
Rochester, a city of 200,000 people on Lake Ontario, erupted with protests last week after the Prude family released body camera footage showing officers had used a mesh hood and pinned Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, to the pavement during the March arrest.
The release of the footage five months after Prude’s death had raised questions of a possible cover-up and turned Rochester into the latest flashpoint in a summer of protests over racial injustice first sparked by George Floyd’s May 25 death.
Seven police officers involved in the arrest were suspended last week. The medical examiner ruled Prude’s death a homicide by asphyxiation, with the drug PCP a contributing factor. He was having a psychotic episode when he was arrested.
Black Lives Matter activists had called for Singletary’s resignation. But as recently as Sunday, amid a weekend of demonstrations, he had said he intended to stay on, and Warren backed him. Both he and the mayor are Black.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” Singletary said in a statement, noting his 20 years on the force.
“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.”
Warren, who has also come under pressure for the handling of Prude’s arrest and death, said Singletary’s deputy, Joseph Morabito, had also retired and that “there may be a number of others that will decide to leave as well.”
The mayor said she was unsure when the retirements would take effect.
Free the People ROC, a local Black Lives Matter group, welcomed the resignations in a Facebook post but demanded more.
“Let’s keep the pressure up until all those responsible for Daniel Prude’s murder and cover-up — including Mayor Lovely Warren – have resigned, taken responsibility and donated their pensions to the families they allowed to be harmed,” it wrote.
Separately on Tuesday, Dallas police department chief Reneé Hall also agreed to resign after a backlash against her department’s handling of demonstrations against racism and police brutality. Hall, who wrote her resignation letter on Tuesday, will stay on until the end of the year.
Last month, some Dallas City Council members said they had lost trust in Hall’s leadership citing lack of transparency regarding the force that police used that injured some demonstrators.
Warren apologized to the Prude family last week and suggested she had been misled by Singletary — an allegation he denied. Singletary also pointed to his ordering of an internal investigation soon after the incident.
The Rochester police union’s head, Michael Mazzeo, defended the officers last week, saying they followed procedure in using the so-called “spit hood,” necessary because Prude claimed he had the coronavirus. Mazzeo also said Singletary’s office told him after the arrest there were “no concerns” with the officers’ actions.