This wasn’t about the protests – this was a protest.
Of a lying mayor, and a dumb-ass City Council. Of a City Hall driven by stupidity and self-interest.
A group of people who had to pass tests to get their jobs had had enough of a group of people who didn’t.
Something north of a hundred years of aggregate police experience looked at the clown circus that is the Lovely Warren administration and decided this was the gag point. So Rochester police Chief La’Ron Singletary and his entire senior command group walked out the door.
The mayor didn’t fire the chief, the chief fired the mayor.
Chief La’Ron Singletary is retiring, Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito is retiring, Commander Fabian Rivera is retiring. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor chose to return to their civil service ranks of lieutenant.
We don’t know who was last one out and turned off the lights.
And we don’t know how the mayor will twist this.
But it was her dishonesty that brought this about. As she and her administration portrayed the chief as a liar, as their narrative falsely blamed him for concealing the officer-involved death of Daniel Prude, she violated the values and besmirched the integrity of the chief and everyone who wears a patch like his.
They’ll work for a dumb politician, but they won’t work for a dishonest politician. Especially when that dishonesty throws a department and profession into further disrepute with hostile mobs and a changing society.
Especially when the micromanagement of City Hall takes away from the police chief and his commanders the authority to make in-the-moment tactical decisions as rocks and bottles are being hurled at officers in front of the Public Safety Building.
When you have the city’s civilian diversity manager giving on-scene commands to uniformed police officers, telling them where to stand and what to do as angry protesters approach them, and City Hall backs him up, well, things are pretty screwed.
And things are pretty screwed.
Or, as the saying goes, this is another Lovely mess.
Never in its history has anything like this happened to the Rochester Police Department. Institutionally, it is a decapitation for principle. The elders have gone away. Personally, it removes a dynamic young giant – Singletary – and two department legends – Rivera and Morabito, each of whom has an almost irreplaceable role in RPD history.
Even the two who are moving down to lieutenant – Favor and Simmons – are giants who could easily be chiefs of department themselves.
And this wasn’t some old-school white guys clique. Morabito is white and Rivera is Latino, and Singletary, Favor and Simmons are black.
This was a command group that looked like the community, and was laser focused on equity and professionalism. Do what’s right, respect everybody, protect the people of Rochester. Every one of them was the sort of person you could personally look up to. Every one of them is a man who loves the city and its people, as well as the department and its members.
Every one of them decided that he, in good conscience, as a matter of personal integrity and honor, could not serve this mayor.
And one of them – Chief La’Ron Singletary – instantly became the odds-on favorite to oppose and replace her in next year’s election.
If she’s not removed by felony conviction before then.
Unfortunately, these retirements will be blood in the water for the protestors – and the newspaper – who will believe it was their pressure that brought them about. And having tasted blood, they will only want more. The mayor won’t give them hers, but she might offer the deputy mayor as a consolation.
Which would be too bad because, if they lose the deputy mayor, that won’t leave anyone at City Hall who knows their head from a hole in the ground.
Unknown in this will be whether City Council, heretofore a disrespected lapdog of the mayor, will rise to its co-equal branch of government status and actively challenge her capricious and vapid governance. Also unknown is whether the City Council will actually become a deliberative body or if it will continue to dance to the tune of its most progressive and least informed members.
Forgotten in the whole mess are the people and police officers of Rochester.
In an era of rising crime, Rochester is defunding the police one command officer at a time, and dangerous city streets aren’t going to get any better. The men and women who protect Rochester find themselves in a department that some veterans call “dead,” with officers mocked on the streets and on the evening news. Apparently everybody spits on the cops in their own way.
But spit dries, and mayors don’t last forever, and the badge still means what it has always meant.
And there will be a better day. For the people of Rochester, and for the officers who have protected them for more than 200 years.
This was about protecting the integrity of that.
Because this wasn’t about the protests – this was a protest.