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'An Attempt To Destroy My Character': Rochester Police Chief Resigns, Denounces Protests

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Top police leaders in New York’s third-largest city are resigning en masse amid criticism of the city’s handling of the death of Daniel Prude, the mayor of Rochester said Tuesday.

La’Ron Singletary, the city’s police chief, is among those resigning, as is Deputy Chief Joseph M. Morabito and possibly other senior commanders, Mayor Lovely Warren said.

Warren made the surprise announcement of the resignations at a City Council briefing held online. Council members had expected the chief to appear in person to discuss ongoing protests over the death of Prude, a 41-year-old man who died several days after an encounter with police on March 23.

“As you all know, this has been a very challenging time for the city of Rochester, and the chief was not asked to give his resignation because I do believe that he’s giving his very best,” Warren told council members.

In an emailed statement to WXXI, Singletary said Tuesday that “the events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”

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“The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for,” he said in the statement.

“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. ”

Singletary, who spent his entire career inside the Rochester Police Department, was appointed chief in April 2019. He said he looks forward to “continuing to serve our community in my next chapter.”

“This is great news,” said Iman Abid, speaking for Free the People ROC, which has held nightly protests since details of Prude’s death emerged. “It says to the people that people are able to move things and to shape things. The police chief wouldn’t retire if it weren’t for something that he felt he was accountable to.”

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But, she said, protests will continue to push other demands, including the resignation of the mayor, defunding of police and development of a state law barring police departments from responding to mental health crises.

The demonstrations have turned violent, with protesters breaking tables at a restaurant and torching vehicles.

Warren didn’t know when the retirements would take effect. It was unclear who would be in charge of police on Tuesday night if protesters come out for a sixth straight night, as expected.

Officers found Prude running naked down the street and put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off life support.

His brother, Joe Prude, had called 911 seeking help for Daniel Prude’s unusual behavior. He had been taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation earlier that night but was released after a few hours, his brother told officers.

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His relatives last week released police body camera video and written reports they obtained through a public records request.

Seven police officers were suspended a day later, and state Attorney General Letitia James said Saturday she would form a grand jury and conduct an “exhaustive investigation” into Prude’s death.

Police union officials have said the officers were following their training.

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