‘Hard to understand’: Rochester-area officials weigh in on Daniel Prude decision

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Many Rochester area officials have released statements in reaction to the latest update in the Daniel Prude investigation. On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the Rochester police officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude would not face charges after a grand jury elected not to indict.

Local leaders and organizations have released statements in response to the announcement.

RPD 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.”

Rochester Police Locust Club

“Pending the conclusion of the internal investigation, the Rochester Police Locust Club will not be making any comments regarding the announcement by NY Attorney General James on the Grand Jury decision. At this time, please refer any questions to the attorneys representing the officers involved. We will provide more availability within a week to the media after thoroughly reviewing the 204 page report.”

Mayor Lovely Warren

“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.

I ask us all to put the well-being of our community first and to act with sincerity to improve our City. If we do that with the dignity and humanity God has instilled in all of us, we will create the change that Mr. Prude’s death, and that our history, demands.

I pray that we all choose this path. I pray for the Prude family, and for his soul, on this difficult day. Let us live the words we have all spoken to create a most just and equitable Rochester for everyone. God bless you and our City.”

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.”

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.”

Assemblymember Harry Bronson

“Today my thoughts are with the family of Daniel Prude. This grand jury report underscores the need for drastic, transformative, systemic changes in law enforcement training and mental health crisis response in New York State. Our work continues in the fight for justice and equity. The inhumane and shameful actions taken by the officers were clear examples of excessive force from law enforcement. Our community is seeking justice and will no longer tolerate these continued practices, which is why I’ve met with advocates to develop legislation in the name of Daniel Prude establishing state and regional mental health response councils requiring mental health professionals to respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies. We cannot wait for another tragedy like this to happen again – We must act now for Rochester and all New Yorkers.”

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Malik Evans

“Today was a sad day for the City of Rochester as we heard that the Grand Jury has decided not to indict the officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude. This is another chapter in a story that African Americans and all Americans for that matter, hear too often; A black man’s life was lost while in police custody. This tragedy is unfortunately exacerbated by the fact that officials tasked with leadership and oversight were not transparent or forthcoming with information and answers that our citizens deserve.

The death of Daniel Prude happened in March and the community was not made aware of this tragedy until September. The senseless loss of a life is devastating, and the erosion of trust between the citizens, police, and elected officials is perilous. We have a responsibility to ensure these types of tragic events do not happen in this City, or anywhere. Our community must trust that its leaders can and will do better. In particular it must be required that mental health professionals handle mental health incidents, and unconscious bias training should be required for police officers on an ongoing basis. I agree with Attorney General James and her call to amend the use of force law, that currently too often results in the deaths of minorities, black men in particular.

I continue to keep Daniel Prude and his family in my thoughts and prayers. We owe it to Daniel Prude to ensure that we have systematic change in the criminal justice system, especially policing.”

Rev. Lewis Stewart

“In regards to the New York State Attorney General’s investigation and the Grand Jury’s decision on the Daniel Prude incident involving several Rochester Police Department officers, I am extremely disappointed and angry. Mr. Prude unnecessarily died while in the custody of RPD, because the law enforcement officers present aided and abetted his death. They refused to recognize his humanity. In my mind, these officers are culpable in the death of Daniel Prude.

I am calling on the Mayor and the Chief of Police to fire these officers. If this was the same case involving non-police officers, the perpetrators involved would be on trial for manslaughter. It appears that there is one law for cops and another law for citizens who are subject to the full penalty of the law.

This is why there is this growing chasm of mistrust and suspicion between the community and the police. The City must urgently put into place mental health, protocols and components to insure that what happened to Daniel Prude will never happen to anyone else again. In addition, the Grand Jury System needs to be reformed.

I urge those who will demonstrate to express your outrage but to do so non-violently. The issue is systemic racism and we must purge this cancer from the Rochester Police Department as well as any cops who are white supremacists.”

Police Accountability Chair Shani Wilson

“The PAB extends its condolences to the family of Daniel Prude and all those struggling with today’s news.

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.”

Senator Samra Brouk

“Daniel Prude’s family and the Rochester community are hurt, anguished, and angry, and today’s grand jury announcement does little to heal or absolve the deep wounds that we are experiencing as a community. I am outraged and heartbroken by the grand jury’s decision to decline to bring charges against the officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death. Daniel died alone and naked on a Rochester street in the middle of a freezing winter night, and no one is being held accountable for that. This is not justice. We need increased transparency and oversight on investigations involving law enforcement, and we need healing, care, and compassion for people experiencing a mental health and substance abuse crisis.”

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