Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has decided, against the advice and findings of her police department and an outside law firm, to bring charges against one of the officers involved in the incident that preceded the death of Daniel Prude.
At a meeting last week that included the mayor and city staffers, to include communications director Justin Roj, the mayor’s intent was made clear and discussions were held about how to circumvent a law that would seem to prevent the officer, at this late date, from being charged.
The issue arises from the police contact on Jefferson Avenue on March 23, 2020, with a Chicago man named Daniel Prude. He was naked and high on drugs, out of his mind, and bleeding from his hand after punching a window. He had been taunted by people on the street, but was largely cooperative when police tracked him down.
He was, however, handcuffed, a spit hood was put over his head and, pursuant to a state-approved technique, held down on the pavement to control his actions and movement. He went into apparent cardiac arrest, was revived, but passed away seven days later at the hospital.
The public was not informed of the incident until some five months later when Daniel Prude’s family announced its intention to sue. Subsequently, criticism was directed toward the mayor for the delay. She claimed that she had been lied to by the police chief, who countered that she asked him to lie to the public to cover for her concealment of the event, then she fired him after he filed for retirement.
Over the many months since, the fate of the seven officers put on leave over the incident – pending an internal investigation – has been uncertain. They were cleared after a months-long investigation by the state attorney general, with a grand jury declining to indict them.
I have also reported, in the spring, that the police department’s internal investigation determined that the officers had neither broken any laws in their interactions with Daniel Prude, nor had they violated any department policies or deviated from their training.
In the spring, that determination, I reported, was agreed with by Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan and forwarded to the mayor.
As part of the routine processing of significant complaints against Rochester police officers, the files and findings of the police department’s internal investigation were given to an outside law firm for review. The purpose is to look at the facts and the law and, with an independent set of eyes, verify whether or not criminal or inappropriate action took place on the part of the officers.
That outside legal review, led by an attorney supporter of Lovely Warren named Langston McFadden, concurred with the police department’s determination that no laws or policy had been violated.
A report of that finding was communicated to the mayor and her administration.
She has declined to accept it.
Instead, she and her senior staff want at least one of the officers to be charged. The belief is that the mayor wants to leave office – she is facing two separate felony prosecutions and was beaten 2-to-1 in this spring’s Democratic mayoral primary – being able to say that she made someone pay for Daniel Prude’s death.
An obstacle to that is a state regulation that says an officer must be charged with any misconduct allegations within 18 months of the incident. March 23, 2020, was 17 months and three weeks ago, meaning the chargeable window is about to close. In apparent anticipation of not making that deadline, the city’s law office has searched legal precedents of a possible extension.
Many police agencies now produce what are called Critical Incident Community Briefing videos, wherein they will edit together bodycam and other video, often in slow motion or with freeze frames, along with expert narration, to explain exactly what happened in controversial contacts between police and civilians – such as shootings or deaths or allegations of misconduct. The city of Rochester apparently intends to produce such a video in regard to the Daniel Prude incident. It had intended for Langston McFadden, representing the outside legal review, to participate in that. Apparently unable to do so contrary to his professional judgement in the matter – the city video apparently being constructed so as to implicate at least one of the officers – he has declined to participate.
And that’s where things stand.
Last week, senior city officials were figuring out who and how in regard to charging an officer, according to someone knowledgeable of city matters. The window for charges seems to be fast closing, and the legal argument for an extension strikes some as specious. The police chief, apparently initially convinced by it, is now less sure. Though, she is expected to leave office shortly and may not be a factor past the end of the month.
The understanding is that any charges will – on legal and procedural review – be thrown out and the officer will be exonerated, but he will first be professionally and socially destroyed by being publicly accused by the mayor of being essentially responsible for the death of Daniel Prude.
The attorney general says no policies or laws were violated.
The internal review says no policies or laws were violated.
The outside law review says no policies or laws were violated.
But Lovely wants a scapegoat. She wants to crucify someone to make herself look good.
And it looks like a city cop is about to take it on the chin. A cop who did nothing but his duty exactly the way his training and the city of Rochester told him to.