The Mayor of Rochester has fired Police Chief La’Ron Singletary two weeks ahead of his scheduled retirement, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Lovely Warren called a press conference at City Hall Monday and released a preliminary report on the city’s response to the death of Daniel Prude that “promised a raft of upcoming actions,” part of her administration’s strategy to contain the fallout of Prude's death at the hands of Rochester Police, the news outlet reported.
Warren immediately relieved Singletary of his command in the same abrupt fashion that he announced his upcoming retirement last week, leaving him to learn the news via social media, reported the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
"This initial look has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department," Warren said in a news release Monday, reported by CNN. "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 reviewed the case throughout City government at every level.”
The mayor suspended with pay seven officers involved in the attempted arrest, CNN reported.
Deputy Chief Mark Simmons was named the acting chief for the next 30 days, according to spokeswoman Jessica Alaimo.
Simmons previously commanded the Administration Bureau and held the role of acting chief in 2018, Alaimo said.
Two other officials were also suspended for 30 days without pay, CNN reported.
Singletary, who started as an intern in the Rochester Police Department in New York in 1998 and worked his way up to the chief, called the events before his recent firing, “an attempt to destroy my character and integrity,” he said in a department news release last week.
The 20-year veteran was set to resign at the end of the month along with his command staff in wake of criticism over their handling over the death of Prude, a 41-year-old Black man who died in police custody, NBC News reported.
The news has prompted department changes, including the upcoming retirement of Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito and Commander Fabian Rivera, and Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor who will be returning to the previous positions of their own volition, officials confirmed.
Singletary's planned resignation came days after the attorney general announced that she will set up a grand jury to investigate the case, and on the same day Prude's family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Singletary, the city, and other members of the police department.
The 40-year-old police veteran told the public they were “misinformed about what he did.” He said in his resignation letter that members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know his reputation and know what he stands for.
"The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude's death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for,” he asserted.
In the weeks leading up to his firing, Warren and Singletary pushed back against accusations that Prude's death was part of a cover up, saying the New York Attorney General's Office had to complete its investigation before they were allowed to publicly release information on the case.
State law requires the attorney general's office to investigate all police custody deaths. Prude's relatives claim that Prude, who suffered from mental health and drug problems, died as a result of "unlawful force" and the "deliberate disregard" for his medical needs, said Prude’s sister, Tameshay Prude.
An autopsy revealed that Prude died of "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," with the drug PCP listed as a contributing factor, according to the medical examiner’s report.