In The Midst of Riots, Rochester Police Give City Taste of Life Without Their Help

In The Midst of Riots, Rochester Police Give City Taste of Life Without Their Help

Demonstrators march through the streets in Rochester, N.Y., Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 protesting the death of Daniel Prude. Prude apparently stopped breathing as police in Rochester were restraining him in March 2020 and died when he was taken off life support a week later. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

As night falls in Rochester, NY, the community protest over the death of Daniel Prude — the 7th in as many nights — is in danger of devolving into riots, vandalism, and violence as has been the standard for many of the protests over the summer of 2020. But this time, in Rochester at least, the entire top tier of police leadership won’t be on hand to help should things go awry. They’ve nearly all decided to retire following calls for an investigation into Prude’s death nearly a week after Rochester police restrained him while he was high on PCP.

Prude, known to have had mental health problems, was found naked by police after his own brother called police fearing he was a danger to himself. Because of his behavior, and a witness statement (possibly from another police officer) indicating Prude may have been exposed to COVID, police placed a “spit hood” over his head and kept him restrained on the ground.

After a week in the hospital, his family removed him from life support and the community began calling for an investigation into his death. The city has been beset by rioting familiar to many cities over the past several months and Rochester police command, dealing with the unrest nightly, have finally decided to call it quits.

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and the rest of his command staff are stepping down following nearly a week of protests over the March death of Daniel Prude.

Singletary, 40, became chief in April 2019. The Rochester native worked his way up through the ranks of the department, completing his 20th year of service last month.

Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito, who oversees the department’s operations bureau, also announced his retirement in an email. He is leaving the department after 34 years. Cmdr. Fabian Rivera, who has been a member of the department for 20 years, is retiring as well.

Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Cmdr. Henry Favor resigned their command positions and returned to their previously held rank of lieutenant. They are moving back to civil service-protected positions, meaning they cannot be fired by the next chief.

The medical examiner has ruled Prude’s death a homicide “caused by ‘complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint’, with intoxication by the drug PCP, a contributing factor,” which no doubt fueled the protest fire. There seems to be some concern that the department didn’t make Prude’s death public right away.

So Rochester police command, no doubt aware of the larger calls for defunding police echoing across the nation, have given the city of Rochester a taste of what that means in practice.

The rest of the nation is watching.


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