Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren and Police Chief La’Ron Singletary spoke out on Sunday about what can be done to prevent the type of death that happened in March when a 41-year-old man died in police custody. Daniel Prude's family had called police to say he was having mental health issues and he was found running naked on Jefferson Avenue.
He was pinned to the ground by police, stopped breathing and died a week later. The release of bodycam video last week caused an uproar locally and around the country.
At a Sunday news conference at City Hall, Warren and Singletary also talked about recent protest marches in the city and how to improve their safety. One of the demands of the activists who have been part of demonstrations in recent days is that the mayor, police chief and other officials resign.
But there was no indication from Warren Sunday that she is planning on doing that and she also showed support for her police chief.
“For everything that we have seen this year it is clear to me that there is more work to be done, and I am committed to doing what’s necessary and I know that the chief is committed to doing what’s necessary to better serve our citizens and our community,” Warren said.
Among the points both Warren and Singletary made in terms of responding to Daniel Prude's death is that they want to re-envison policing and how people having a mental health crisis are dealt with. Warren says one step already in the works is doubling the availability of mental health professionals for those kinds of situations.
Prude's death is under investigation by the New York State Attorney General and last week, Warren placed seven officers who were at the scene of that incident on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Attorney General Letitia James announced over the weekend that she will empanel a grand jury in the investigation.
In terms of the protests held in recent days in the city, where demonstrators and others have complained about heavy-handed tactics by officers including tear gas and the firing of pepper balls, a local clergy member is suggesting a different approach.
Also at Sunday’s City Hall news conference was Rev. Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester. She said that 50 church elders will try and serve as a buffer between police and protesters at future demonstrations.
“We’re asking for justice and until justice is served you need to make sure that our young people are safe, that our college students are safe, that children who are marching are safe. And so we elders have volunteer to put our bodies on the line to make sure that happens,” Brown said.
She is not sure yet how long that buffer experiment will be used.