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Rochester mayor fires police chief, suspends two City Hall department heads

Max Schulte
WXXI News (file photo)
Rochester Maor Lovely Warren speaks at a news conference in Rochester on Sept. 3, 2020 3

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired the city's police chief La’Ron Singletary Monday, effective immediately, and suspended her top communications aide and the city’s attorney for 30 days without pay.

During a news conference Monday, the mayor said she took the personnel actions after receiving a report from Deputy Mayor James Smith, whom she instructed to perform an “internal management review of the mental hygiene arrest and subsequent death of Daniel Prude to determine who knew what and when.”

Prude suffocated after being restrained by police last March when they responded to a call about a mental health crisis. He died a week later and the death was ruled a homicide. The serioussness of the case came to light last month when body cam fottage of the incident was released. 

Seven police officers who were there that night previously were suspended pending the investigation, and Singletary and his command staff recently announced they would be retiring. But originally the chief was going to stay through the end of this month.

The mayor contended that the report showed that Daniel Prude’s death wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been by those at all levels of city government who were familiar with it. The public should have been informed of Prude’s death, and the circumstances of it, when it occurred in March, Warren said.

“It was seemingly viewed by all concerned as an unfortunate set of circumstances, which we all know was not the case,” Warren said Monday.

Warren added that after learning of the body camera video from the officers conducting the mental health arrest on Prude, she should have conducted a thorough review of “how we handled this matter and informed the public.”

On Monday, Warren also announced that she’s requested that the U.S. Attorney General’s Office investigate possible violations of Prude’s civil rights and bring charges if they are supported. She also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to thoroughly review the Rochester Police Department, including three years' worth of body camera footage from arrests where officers used force.

Warren also stated that she’s directed the city’s Office of Public Integrity to conduct an investigation to determine whether any city employees, herself included, violated city or departmental ethical policies in relation to the Prude case.

Singletary had already tendered his resignation prior to his termination Monday. When he announced his resignation last Tuesday, he planned to leave at the end of the month.

City Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin, who was suspended Monday, has been an attorney with the city of Rochester since 1994. He became corporation counsel, the city’s top lawyer, in January 2018.

Communications Director Justin Roj, who was suspended Monday, was hired in December 2018. In a tweet Monday, he said he accepted the disciplinary action from the mayor.

“At no time before August 4 was I aware of what had happened to Mr. Prude and when I saw the video I immediately expressed my opinion within City Hall that the officers involved should no longer be on our streets,” read part of Roj’s statement.