Rochester police chief relieved of duty shortly after announcing retirement

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Even after Chief La’Ron Singletary announced his pending retirement amid the political upheaval in Rochester following the custodial death of Daniel Prude, Mayor Lovely Warren on Monday announced she is relieving him of command. Moreover, the mayor has requested a federal investigation into  Prude’s death.

Warren took no questions following the announcement.

Singletary was not informed ahead of time but rather found out when one of the RPD commanders saw it on twitter, he said via text message to a reporter. He had just left a virtual briefing with the mayor and City Council, reported Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

“We have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department, one that views everything through the eyes of the badge,” the mayor said, adding: “The culture of policing in Rochester must change.”

The custodial death of Prude occurred in March. 

Furthermore, Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj have been suspended for 30 days without pay. The mayor’s announcement came during a hastily called news conference at City Hall moments after concluding the City Council briefing in which she sat alongside Curtin.

There was no mention of either during the briefing.

Singletary and Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito  announced last week that they were retiring as things have become testy in the city. The retirements were to be effective Sept. 29.

That announcement was delivered in similar stunning fashion, at the start of a similar briefing as was held on Monday. Warren appeared late to that session, having just learned of the chief’s decision.

Warren outlined a series of measures Monday, saying that a preliminary review by Deputy Mayor James Smith had provided the groundwork for the measures.

She said the city’s Office of Public Integrity would “determine if any employees — including herself — violated city or departmental policies or ethical standards.” And that the city would bring in an outside agency to assess police training manuals, general orders and regulations, as well as the city’s open records process.

Warren previously announced that seven officers connected to Prude’s case had been suspended with pay, reported Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

New York state Attorney General Letitia James is investigating and has said she will impanel a grand jury. Warren on Monday added requests for the U.S. Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice to get involved.

“Frankly, the public should have been informed of Mr. Prude’s death and the circumstances that led to his death in March,” Warren said, adding that she should have initiated this move after she saw the video last month.

She promised a “robust” and public-driven process to reform RPD and City Hall.

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