The mayor of Rochester, New York, promised Sunday that the city’s police department will undergo a series of reforms as protests over the March death of Daniel Prude entered their fifth night.
The city’s mayor, Lovely Warren, said that in “the coming weeks, months, and years,” the department will see a number of reforms. Crisis intervention will be moved out of the police department, and its budget and team moved to Rochester’s department of youth and recreation services, Warren said.
The crisis intervention team currently has ten staff, according to the Rochester City Newspaper.
The move came just days after the mayor announced the immediate suspension of the seven Rochester police officers involved in 41-year-old Prude’s arrest on March 23.
Prude’s relatives had called the police for help when he was suffering a mental episode. Officers found him running naked in the street. He initially complied when officers asked him to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. Later, Prude sat up and began spitting at the officers while saying he had contracted the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus.
Officers put a spit guard on Prude and pinned him to the ground face down for about two minutes to restrain him, after which he stopped breathing. Prude received CPR on the scene and was taken to hospital. He died seven days later, on March 30, after being taken off life support.
A medical examiner concluded that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report lists excited delirium and acute intoxication by the recreational drug phencyclidine, or PCP, as factors contributing to his death.
“We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassion. In that moment we had an opportunity to protect him, to keep him warm, to bring him to safety, to begin the process of healing him and lifting him up,” Warren said during a news conference Sunday. “We have to own the fact that in the moment we did not do that.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office took over the investigation of Prude’s death in April. James announced Saturday that a grand jury will be empaneled as part of the probe into Prude’s death. The investigation is ongoing.
Police Chief La’Ron Singletary told reporters Sunday that he is in favor of the department reforms, and is working with experts and clinicians in getting outpatient services for people with mental health issues that bring them into repeated police contact.
Largely peaceful demonstrations were seen in the city on Sunday night, which saw approximately 1,000 protesters march to the city’s Public Safety Building. No arrests were made, Rochester police said.
“The Rochester Police Department would like to thank our local and state law enforcement partners for their assistance and a special thanks to Dr. Myra Brown and a group of community elders for keeping the protest safe and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard,” the department said in a statement following Sunday night’s protest.
The Rochester Police Department would like to thank our local and state law enforcement partners for their assistance and a special thanks to Dr. Myra Brown and a group of community elders for keeping the protest safe and allowing everyone’s voice to be heard. pic.twitter.com/YjQWa3ELY3
— Rochester NY Police (@RochesterNYPD) September 7, 2020
The night before saw some violence, with eleven protesters were arrested. Three police officers had to be treated at hospitals for injuries suffered when “projectiles and incendiary devices” were hurled at them by violent protesters.
The names of the seven recently suspended arresting officers are: Sgt. Michael Magri, Officer Josiah Harris, Officer Paul Ricotta, Officer Francisco Santiago, Officer Andrew Specksgoor, Officer Troy Taladay, and Officer Mark Vaughn. The head of the police union has maintained that the officers were following their training.
Mimi Nguyen Ly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.