Rochester police chief fired in fallout over Prude death

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren addresses the media about the death of Daniel Prude, as Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary listens. Warren fired the police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Prude. (Jamie Germano/Democrat & Chronicle via AP)
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren addresses the media about the death of Daniel Prude, as Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary listens. Warren fired the police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Prude. (Jamie Germano/Democrat & Chronicle via AP)

Credit: Jamie Germano

Credit: Jamie Germano

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also suspends top lawyer, communications director

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired the police chief and suspended her top lawyer and communications director Monday in the continuing upheaval over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.

Chief Le’Ron Singletary announced his retirement last week as part of a major shakeup of the city’s police leadership but said he would stay on through the end of the month.

Instead, Warren said at a news conference that she had permanently relieved him while suspending Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj without pay for 30 days following a cursory management review of the city's role in Prude's death.

“This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department,” Warren said. “One that views everything through the eyes of the badge and not the citizens we serve. It shows that Mr. Prude’s death was not taken as seriously as it should have been by those who reviewd the case throughout city government at every level.”

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Officers found Prude running naked down the street in March, handcuffed him and put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.

“I have apologized to the Prude family and this community for the failures that happened along the way, including my own. As mayor, I own these failures.”

- Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren

His death has sparked nearly two weeks of nightly protests and calls for Warren's resignation after his relatives released police body camera video and written reports they obtained through a public records request.

Warren said the review had produced eight recommendations, including that the city’s Office of Public Integrity investigate whether she or any other employees violated city policies or ethical standards.

The review by Deputy Mayor James Smith also recommended that the U.S. Justice Department conduct a review of the Rochester Police Department, including a review of all body-worn camera footage for use-of-force arrests during the last three years.

Warren said she would move forward with those and the other recommendations, which include having outside agencies review police training manuals and Freedom of Information Law procedures.

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“I have apologized to the Prude family and this community for the failures that happened along the way, including my own,” Warren said. “As mayor, I own these failures.”

Prude’s family has filed a federal lawsuit alleging the police department sought to cover up the true nature of Prude’s death, starting with what Warren said was Singletary reporting to her early on that Prude had an apparent drug overdose.

In announcing his retirement Sept. 8, the outgoing chief accused critics of trying to “destroy my character and integrity.”

Roj said he accepted his suspension but said he was not aware of what happened to Prude until Aug. 4. He said Singletary told him in an email of an ongoing criminal investigation and that the mayor was already informed.

“In hindsight, I agree I should have questioned the Chief further and/or taken the opportunity to discuss his email with the Mayor,” Roj said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Curtin could not be reached by phone to comment on his suspension.