Rochester Mayor Pledges Police & Mental Health Reforms Following Protests of Daniel Prude's Death

The mayor's promise follows days of protests in response to Prude's death while in police custody this past March

Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren
Rochester, N.Y., Mayor Lovely Warren. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

On Sunday, the mayor of Rochester, New York, pledged to explore policing and mental health reforms. Protests in response to Daniel Prude's March death in police custody had entered their fifth night in the city.

Mayor Lovely Warren said at a press conference that she recognized a "need to continue to deliver consistent progress over the coming weeks, months, and years" following Prude's death on March 30, one week after police detained him, placed a so-called "spit-hood" over his head and held his head to the ground.

As Rochester readied for its fifth night of protests in response to Prude's death on Sunday night, Warren said the city would move its crisis intervention team from the city's police department and relocate the mental health workers and its funding to the Department of Youth and Recreation Services.

"We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassion," Warren, 43, said. "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. We have to own the fact that in the moment we did not do that."

Monroe County Medical Examiner's office ruled Prude, 41, had died as a result of a homicide caused by "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint," according to the New York Times.

Joe Prude, the brother of Daniel Prude, leads demonstrators in a march for his brother
Joe Prude, the brother of Daniel Prude, leads demonstrators in a march for his brother in Rochester, New York. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Prude's death was not made public until last Wednesday, when his family released police footage of his death.

In response to questions from Prude's family and demonstrators about why it took more than five months to make Prude's death public, Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary said multiple times during Sunday's press conference that "this is not a cover-up."

Both Singletary and Warren said they would not resign, despite growing calls by demonstrators for them to do so amid questions about the city's handling of Prude's death.

Prude's brother, Joe Prude, had called police that day seeking help after his brother left in an erratic mental state. Prude had been hospitalized the day before with apparent mental health problems, according to The Times.

“I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched,” Joe Prude said at a Wednesday press conference, according to the Associated Press. “How did you see him and not directly say, ‘The man is defenseless, buck naked on the ground. He’s cuffed up already. Come on.’ How many more brothers gotta die for society to understand that this needs to stop?”

Prude, who had been running in the streets nude at the time of his arrest, told the group of police officers, "Take this s--- off my face, you're trying to kill me," as heard in body cam footage, first reported by the Democrat & Chronicle.

People gather as they prepare to march for Daniel Prude during a protest
People gather to march in Rochester, N.Y., for Daniel Prude following news of his March 2020 death in police custody. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The officers involved in Prude's death have been suspended without pay, according to CNN, though no one has been charged in his death.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Saturday that she would be forming a grand jury to investigate Prude's death.

Bob Duffy, who was both the city's former mayor and former police chief, blasted the city's handling of Prude's death in a statement on Sunday.

"Police-community relations are not about buildings or town halls," Duffy, now the president and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, said. "Positive relationships are built through mutual respect and trust. This incident and its aftermath have created a divide in our community that will only be repaired with true leadership, courage, transparency, and deep systemic change. The time for excuses and band-aids is over."

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