As Rochester, New York, becomes the latest focal point of national outrage over rampant police brutality in the United States, the “entire command staff” of the Rochester police department has resigned in anger following the killing of Daniel Prude.
Daniel Prude was killed on March 30, but videotaped footage of Rochester police officers placing a spit hood on the 41-year-old man and pressing his face into the pavement during a mental episode was released last week by family members and advocates, setting off protests and sparking new calls for accountability.
Seven officers involved in Prude’s arrest have been suspended, while a grand jury will determine whether charges will be brought over the killing, which medical examiners have ruled a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” while he was in a state of so-called “excited delirium” and PCP intoxication.
On Wednesday, Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary complained that his handling of the case had been distorted by outside entities, and that he could not idly stand by as his leadership was scrutinized.
“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” Singletary said.
“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,” he added.
The chief has steadfastly denied that his department had sought to hide the details of Prude’s grisly death from public scrutiny.
Warren told council members that “the entire Rochester Police Department’s command staff has announced their retirement,” noting that Deputy Chief Mark Simmons would also likely step down, according to AP.
“There may be a number of others who will decide to leave as well and retire,” Warren warned.
Mayor Warren has said that systemic racism led to Daniel Prude’s death, while local Black Lives Matter protesters and police accountability advocates had called on Rochester Police leadership to resign. However, Warren said that she did not request Chief Singletary’s resignation.
“He did not in any way try to cover this up,” she added.
However, Warren had responded bitterly to last week’s release of video, noting that the police chief had failed to inform her about the case and Singletary had characterized Prude’s death as the result of a drug overdose.
Meanwhile, the local police union has defended their members by claiming the officers followed training “step by step.”
Rochester Police Locust Club president Michael Mazzaeo noted that spit hoods are standard equipment for officers. The spit hood is a mesh bag meant to prevent arrestees from spitting on officers, but has come under heavy criticism for for causing deaths in police custody and in prison.
The officers have been supported by President Donald Trump, who has offered nearly unlimited support for police accused of brutality and misconduct in the past and is banking on a strategy that depicts rivaling Democrats as being anti-police.
“The Democrat Mayor and, of courses [sic], Governor Cuomo, have no idea what to do. New York State is a mess,” Trump tweeted.
In 12 minutes of police bodycam footage obtained by the family, Prude can be seen with his arms handcuffed behind his back, naked and unarmed, while officers attempt to restrain him.
As he sat on the road, Prude became agitated and incoherent while spitting on the ground. Prude also claimed that he had Covid-19, prompting the officers to place the hood on him.
As officers laughed before placing the hood over Prude’s head, he began shouting: “Give me that gun. Give me that gun.” The three officers then shoved him to the ground.
An officer could be seen pressing down on Prude’s head with two hands, saying “stop spitting.” Prude eventually stops moving and goes quiet before the officers note that his body also turned cold.
One week later, Prude died in the hospital after his family agreed to remove him from life support.