After days of protests against the Rochester Police Department over the death of Daniel Prude, the chief officer and his deputy announced on Tuesday that they were withdrawing from the force. Together with the chief of police, six other department heads announced that they would vacate their roles.
Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said in a statement that it was an honor for him to serve the New York state city for 20 years and praised his staff. However, he said the protests and criticism of his handling of the March 23 investigation were “an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”
“As a man of integrity, I will not stand idly by while outside beings try to destroy my character,”
Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott said his resignation will take effect on September 29th. Scott told ABC News that there is currently no blueprint for how the city will perform after the command staff resigned.
Antonio Romanucci, the lawyer for Prude’s children, described Singletary’s departure as “an important and necessary step in healing and meaningful reform in the community.”
“The conduct of the officers in Mr. Prude’s case was clearly inhuman and the cover-up that followed was unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing justice to Mr. Prude and letting those in charge at Rochester do the hard work it takes to address systemic racism issues and training protocols in the police department.”
Mayor Lovely Warren told Rochester City Council that in addition to Singletary, all command staff have announced that they will be vacating their roles today. She noted that none of the police leaders had been asked to resign.
The police union said the announcement surprised them but put the blame at the foot of the mayor’s office.
“The events that occurred today took us, like everyone else, completely by surprise,” the Rochester Police Locust Club said in a statement. “What is clear is that the leadership’s problems go straight to the mayor’s office. Our priority now is the committed men and women who, despite unprecedented challenges, continue to do a very difficult job.”
“Our members remain focused and committed to serving the citizens of this city despite the lack of support and guidance we see from our elected officials at City Hall,” the union added.
The announcement came during a scheduled city council meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and Scott said she had absolutely no knowledge that Singletary was going to make the announcement he was doing.
“It was unexpected. I didn’t know it was going to happen,” said Scott. “I don’t know blindside is the right word. But yeah, right. This was a briefing to talk about how the police handled the protests.”
Deputy chief Joseph Morabito was among the retirees. He had served in the Rochester Police Department for 34 years.
“It has also been an honor for me to serve this community for many years. A community that I was born and raised in and that I deeply love,” he wrote in a statement.
Cmdr. Fabian Rivera and Cmdr. Elena Correia also announced her resignation, while Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Cmdr. Henry Favor left the command staff to return to his former lieutenants.
Deputy Chief Mark Mura announced that he would return to the rank of captain.
Tameshay Prude, Daniel Prude’s sister and administrator of his estate, said in a statement that the departures were “a good move,” but reiterated that the entire force needed an overhaul.
Body camera footage was released last week showing the March 23rd incident involving Rochester and Prude, 41 police officers. Prude’s brother Joe called 911 for help and said Daniel had a mental emergency.
In the video, the officers approached the naked Prude, and Prude initially followed the officers’ instructions. Prude was then seen screaming and spitting, which prompted the officers to put a spit bag over his head.
The officers are then seen tucking Prude to the ground while the bag is still on his head and he will eventually become lifeless. Prude died a week later.
The news sparked protests across the city for the past six days, and in some cases it got hot. Officials had to use pepper spray and tear gas on the protesters after saying that bottles and stones were thrown at them.
The New York Attorney General is investigating the incident and seven members of the Rochester Police Department have been suspended for payment. The AG’s office announced over the weekend that it would set up a large jury to decide whether the incident should be prosecuted.
Prude’s death wasn’t made public until The Democrat and Chronicle released the video on September 2.
Since the video was released, community lawyers and activists have criticized the police for keeping Prude’s death and investigation under lock and key for months. Warren and Singletary have defended their actions, saying that everything they have done so far has been post-book.
“He’s in no way tried to cover this up,” Warren told the city council.
ABC News’ Alondra Valle, Chris Donato, and Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.