Area officials and lawmakers react to the Prude grand jury decision

Feb 24, 2021
Originally published on February 23, 2021 7:06 pm

A number of area officials and legislators are reacting to the decision by a grand jury not to indict RPD officers in connection with the death of Daniel Prude last year:

Statement from Mayor Lovely Warren regarding the NYS Attorney General’s conclusion of its investigation into the death of Daniel Prude:

“The announcement by the Attorney General is hard for many of us to understand. Today’s findings will not undo the damage done nor bring Mr. Prude back to his loved ones. And, we extend our fullest prayers and condolences to his children and his family. There are no words that can comfort a family who has lost their loved one in this tragic way. Our actions going forward will ensure that Daniel Prude’s death was not in vain.

As a City and a community we must work towards changing policies and procedures to correct the inequities in the system. I am committed to focusing my energy and anger on creating the change our community so desperately seeks, and I ask that you join with me.

Our recent draft proposals reimaging policing in response to Executive Order 203, and Chief Herriott-Sullivan’s revised orders and procedures, which she will announce soon, are evidence of this effort."

Statement from City Council President Loretta C. Scott and Vice President Willie J. Lightfoot on the Attorney General’s Announcement

Today, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that the grand jury empaneled last fall in the investigation of Daniel Prude’s death has returned with no indictments against the members of the Rochester Police Department involved in this incident. While this decision is extremely disappointing, it is not at all surprising. We realize that for many in our community, this decision feels inadequate and unjust.

While we cannot change the decision of the grand jury, we can continue to seek justice for Daniel Prude. Tonight we call on Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan to pursue disciplinary actions against the officers involved in his death, including the possible termination of these officers.

We must continue the efforts in our community to reform our public safety system, and ensure that we create a system that values human life and recognizes and responds appropriately to situations involving individuals in need of mental health services.

Pamela Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and James P. Kennedy Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, and Stephen A. Belongia, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Buffalo Field Office, released the following statement:

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are aware that a grand jury empaneled by the New York State Attorney General’s Office has concluded its investigation of the various officers of the Rochester Police Department who encountered Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020, and determined that no charges would be filed.  We intend to review the comprehensive report issued by the New York State Attorney General, as well as any other relevant materials, and will determine whether any further federal response is warranted.”

Statement from Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan:

“As a public servant, I have a deep and unwavering regard for our judicial system and due process for all persons. The N.Y.S. Attorney General’s Office has completed their investigation and the Grand Jury has made their decision in this case, and we must respect it.

This is still an ongoing investigation. The Rochester Police Department’s (RPD) Professional Standards Section (PSS) will continue with the internal investigation. The officers will remain on leave pending the outcome of this internal investigation.

My heart goes out to the Prude family during this difficult time. I want the family and our community to know that I accepted the role of Interim Police Chief to make real, systemic change, and that is still my goal. I am proud of the progress we’re making and of RPD Officers for being open to learning alternative methods and working together towards a common goal of keeping this from happening again. Our job is to serve and protect, and we are committed to continuous improvement and partnering with community leaders and experts to make progress on reframing the Department to a guardian mindset, training and policy updates for de-escalation, duty to intervene, and mental hygiene detention practices.

I understand the community’s collective pain in this moment and respect their constitutional right to peaceful and lawful demonstration to express their feelings about the Grand Jury’s decision. However, it is critical that the lives and property of all are also respected and safeguarded. Our primary goal is to maintain public safety and to keep the peace. We ask that anyone wishing to demonstrate refrain from committing acts of violence or crimes. We strongly encourage the review of RPD’s Demonstrator’s Guide for pertinent laws and codes related to legally allowable demonstration practices.”

Statement From Police Accountability Board  Chair Shani Wilson:

“The PAB extends its condolences to the family of Daniel Prude and all those struggling with today’s news,” said Police Accountability Board Chair Shani Wilson. “Throughout our city’s history, criminal prosecutions have failed to deliver justice for Black and Brown people harmed by police. This fact is why our community overwhelmingly voted to create a new system to hold the police accountable: the PAB. Every failure to deliver justice for officer wrongdoing proves that the PAB needs to have its disciplinary powers returned, its investigations unimpeded, and its work fully funded.”

Statement from Monroe County Executive Adam Bello

“My prayers are with Daniel Prude’s family and friends tonight.  His tragic death has caused an enormous amount of pain throughout our community, pain that still resonates to this very day. It has left us all searching for answers on how to do better and hold ourselves accountable to addressing a system that is clearly unjust, one that was devoid of compassion for someone who was crying out for help. Mr. Prude’s death laid bare for us the systemic failures that have adversely impacted Black and Brown communities for too long.

Just as Mr. Prude’s death exposed a failure of the system to respond to the crisis he was facing, today’s decision has exposed an entire system in urgent need of change. We must all work together – through our actions, not just empty words – to reform our systems and services so these tragedies are not repeated.”

Statement from Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley:

“I want to thank the Attorney General for bringing this difficult case to a Grand Jury. I believe wholeheartedly that the Attorney General’s Office followed the law in this matter. The outcome of the Grand Jury proceeding does not change the fact that our community is hurting and angry from not only Daniel Prude’s death last March, but generations of inequities. My continued prayers are with the family of Daniel Prude. It is my hope as District Attorney and a member of this community that we are able to move forward together in unity.”

Statement from Congressman Joe Morelle (D-25)

While this marks the end of the grand jury process, it’s abundantly clear that our policies and procedures are not working—if they were, Daniel Prude would still be alive today.

“Now, it is up to all of us to turn our anguish into action. We must start by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, by improving mental health services, and by reevaluating and reimagining police training protocols. The challenges we face are not unsolvable, and we owe it to Daniel Prude—and the countless victims like him in communities across our nation—to take decisive action to solve them.

“Ultimately, we must do whatever it takes to create a more just system and prevent a tragedy like this from happening to another family ever again.”

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