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Former Rochester Chief Alleges Mayor Fired Him After He ‘Repeatedly Refused to Lie For Her’
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Former Rochester Chief Alleges Mayor Fired Him After He ‘Repeatedly Refused to Lie For Her’

by Leah AnayaDecember 17, 2020

Rochester, NY – This week, the former Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary has made allegations in a notice of claim against Mayor Lovely Warren, saying that the mayor fired him because he refused to lie for her regarding a suspect death.

The incident in question is regarding the March 30 death of Daniel Prude, who was restrained by police while naked on March 23 while it was snowing. Prude lost consciousness during the detention and died in a hospital seven days later.

The death didn’t catch media attention until early September when Prude’s family gave a press conference together with the advocacy group Free the People Roc. Questions arose as to whether or not Singletary told the Mayor’s office of the circumstances surrounding the death, and whether the Mayor made proper notifications as well.

Within days of the conference, amid raging protests and riots, it was reported that the entire Rochester Police Department command staff retired or had their ranks reduced, including Singletary, although he was later fired by the mayor. Seven police officers were suspended pending investigation. An attorney for one of the officers said a grand jury is still at least several weeks away from a decision.

Singletary said that before being fired, Warren asked him to “withhold full and truthful information from the City Council investigation” regarding Prude’s death. He said Warren asked him to “provide false information and to omit material information to support the Mayor’s public narrative concerning her knowledge of the events in the matter of Daniel Prude.”

Singletary said, “I repeatedly refused to lie for Mayor Warren.”

Singletary’s allegations came the same week that the 48-page report by the City of Rochester’s Office of Public Integrity said the investigation found “no evidence of any city employee violating any policies or ethical standards for the city or city departments” regarding Prude’s death. This investigation, however, was solely meant to review the actions of non-sworn city employees from the Mayor down.

Warren has not spoken on the investigation or the incident in nearly three months. Repeated calls for her resignation by activists have been ignored.

Bridgette Burch White, spokesman for the City, released the following statement, “The City administration continues to fully comply with the ongoing review by City Council into the death of Daniel Prude, as it did with the OPI investigation that found no wrongdoing.

“As for the Notice of Claim, it confirms the fact that Mayor Warren was never shown the body worn camera footage of the incident by former chief Singletary. It also confirms that Mayor Warren first saw the video on August 4th when it was provided by Corporation Counsel, a fact that Mr. Singletary refused to acknowledge until now. The City will fully defend taxpayers against this frivolous suit.”

A separate investigation into the actions of the mayor and the police department is still ongoing.

On September 3, Warren defended Singletary’s actions following Prude’s death. Singletary was asked if he told the Mayor in a timely fashion about the death, and he said, “I provided the mayor factual information the morning of the 23rd and March 30 as a follow-up, when Mr. Prude passed away.”

To this, Warren responded, “He handled it the way he needed to handle it internally, so when he made the call to me, it was the information he had at that time, and then he did what he needed to do on the back end. And then, on August 4, when the corporation counsel made me aware of just the video and the extent of what the video was, that was the conversation that we had, an extensive conversation with the corporation counsel, the chief as well as the deputy mayor at that time.”

Singletary was notably absent at council meetings after that press conference. Weeks later, on September 14, Warren said at a news conference that it was Singletary’s last day as Chief, as she had relieved him of duty. Singletary later said that he was unaware this announcement was going to be made.

Also at that conference, Warren said, “This initial look has shown that we have a pervasive problem in the RPD – 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 viewed the case throughout city government and at every level, and that it was seemingly viewed by all concerned as an unfortunate set of circumstances, which we all know was not the case.”

Before his death, Prude’s brother had told police he was in fear for Prude’s safety and that he was high on PCP. When police met with Prude, he was naked and acting erratically, according to body cam footage. A spit hood was placed over his head to stop him from spitting on officers.

While attempting to detain Prude, officers reportedly held him to the ground by placing a knee on his back. This tactic has been scrutinized and seen as dangerous in recent months, particularly following the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody.

At the press conference held by Prude’s family on September 2, Warren said, “I saw the video awhile ago. As the chief indicated, this was not something that the city was not aware of. When Mr. Prude was taken to the hospital on March 23, the chief immediately contacted me, let me know that they had a mental hygiene situation that happened, took him to the hospital and they were waiting to see what was going to happen as far as his health was concerned.

“When he passed away, I was notified, the law department of course was notified as well, that he passed away, and that the executive order, we had learned from the law department that the executive order was in place, and that the AG’s office would most likely take this under their wing because it was an in-custody situation, and that we needed to wait until the AG’s office was done with their investigation until we could do anything on our side.”

The next day (and what she reportedly maintains now) Warren said in a press conference that she wasn’t actually aware of the full circumstances surrounding Prude’s death. She said that Singletary told her there was an overdose of a subject in police custody, but gave no other details.

During that conference, Warren announced that the officers were suspended. She also said she was “deeply and personally and professionally disappointed” in the chief for “him failing to fully and accurately inform [her] about what occurred with Mr. Prude.”

At that time, Warren said, “He knows he need to do better to truly protect and serve our community, and I believe that he will. Experiencing and ultimately dying from a drug overdose in police custody, as I was told by the chief, is entirely different than what I ultimately witnessed on the video provided to me by the law department on August 4.”

The autopsy, apparently, ruled the death a homicide, but that portion of the investigation hasn’t yet been completed either.

Mike Mazzeo, the president of the Rochester Police Locust Club (police union) said that the officers involved did their jobs exactly as trained, and offered that there was more to the Daniel Prude story than an edited body cam video.

Mazzeo said in September, “What you saw is not complete, and certainly not accurate. But that speaks to what needs to be done. What needs to be done is to have this investigation completed, and to have everything at that point in time shown by an agency that’s independent and investigating it.

“You look at the video, and then you also have to take so much encompassing information in placing that video in the context that it had to be. It’s also important to understand, especially in edited video, you may hear things or not hear things, or what you may see may be a difference in the distance of someone actually speaking. There may be a number of factors involved.

“If there’s a need to change the way policing is done, let’s change them. An officer does not have the ability to disregard what they’re mandated to do and what they’re trained to do.”

Also in September, Warren’s attorney, Tim Curtin, said that settlement talks began with the Prude family in early August. He also said he advised that Warren not make any statements, nor release any video, to the public until an investigation was complete.

Curtin said, “The mayor can do whatever she wants to do. My role as her attorney is to give her advice, and my very strong advice to her was not to make public comments. We weren’t going to release the tape; we were going to defer to the family. We ultimately released the tape to the family, and we left it within the family’s discretion whether or not to release the tape to the public.

“My advice to the mayor at that point in time, after we’ve reviewed the tape, was not to make any statements, not to involve the media as requested by the attorney general until the attorney general’s investigation had been completed.”

LENN will provide updates on Singletary’s lawsuit as they become available.

About The Author
Leah Anaya
Leah Anaya
Leah Anaya is a medically retired police officer. She served for three years at the Oakland Police Department, and just under five at a department in Washington State. Before that, she was an intelligence analyst in the US Army. She is now a stay at home mom living with her husband, who is still serving as a police officer, and their three children. She also grew up as the daughter of a police officer in California. Leah is now a writer and Deputy Editor at Law Enforcement News Network as well as the Business Manager for Washington State FOP. She's a peer support advocate for The Wounded Blue and Serve and Protect. You can find her on social media @leahmsanaya or at www.leahanaya.com.
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