(Reuters) – Rochester, New York, Mayor Lovely Warren on Monday fired Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and suspended two city officials over the handling of the asphyxiation death of Daniel Prude in police custody, as she called for a federal review of the case.
Video footage, released by Prude’s family, showed officers using a mesh hood and pinning the 41-year-old Black man to the pavement during the March arrest.
The footage has raised questions of a possible cover-up and turned Rochester into the latest flashpoint in a summer of protests over racial injustice and policing first sparked by George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis police custody.
“We have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens that we serve,” Warren said during a news conference. “It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been.”
Warren also announced that she also suspended City Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days for “failure to act, inform and follow policy and procedures.”
Warren said she made the decision to terminate Singletary and suspend Curtin and Roj after reading an internal review of the case.
“Never again can we allow any man or woman to needlessly die in police custody nor can we treat the review of a case as carelessly as we have done with this case,” she said.
Warren called on the U.S. Attorney General’s office to conduct an investigation to determine if Prude’s civil rights were violated.
She also directed the city’s Office of Public Integrity to investigate and determine if she or any city employee violated city policies or ethical standards.
Singletary resigned last Tuesday along with his command staff, saying there had been a “mischaracterization and politicization” of his actions following the death of Prude in police custody. It was unclear when the resignations were to take effect.
Seven police officers involved in the arrest were suspended on Sept. 3 shortly after protests erupted following the release of the video of Prude’s arrest. The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation, with the drug PCP a contributing factor. He was having a psychotic episode when he was arrested.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Sandra Maler and Aurora Ellis)