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Investigation: Rochester City Hall violated no policies in handling Daniel Prude info

Provided Photo / WXXI News
Daniel Prude died in March after suffocating and losing consciousness during his arrest by Rochester Police.

The city’s Office of Public Integrity has concluded that neither Mayor Lovely Warren nor anyone in her administration violated departmental policies or ethics codes in their handling of information about Daniel Prude’s arrest and his death at the hands of Rochester police officers.

The review dealt entirely with the actions of civilian employees under the supervision of the mayor, as well as the mayor herself. The Office of Public Integrity did not investigate, nor did it have the authority to investigate the actions of Rochester Police Department officers and staff or members of City Council.

“After interviewing city employees, reviewing relevant city records, and examining related policies, procedures, and ethical standards, OPI found no evidence that any city employee within its jurisdiction violated city or departmental policies or ethical standards with respect to their actions in response to the death of Mr. Prude,” reads the investigation report.

In the early hours of March 23, Rochester Police officers found Prude standing naked in the middle of Jefferson Avenue and in clear mental distress. Police body-worn camera footage showed that three officers restrained Prude, who was already handcuffed. He lost consciousness and suffocated. Prude was transported by ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital, where he died on March 30.

Warren directed the Office of Public Integrity to open its inquiry on Sept. 14, nearly two weeks after activists and attorneys for the Prude family made Prude’s death and the circumstances around it public.

Warren had previously acknowledged that she’d learned of Prude’s death on March 30, but stated that then-Police Chief La’Ron Singletary had told her Prude had overdosed.

Warren said that she only learned about the specifics of Prude's arrest on Aug. 4, when the city’s corporation counsel, Tim Curtin, brought the body-worn camera footage from the incident to her attention. Curtin was compiling records to fulfill a Freedom of Information Law request from attorneys for the Prude family.

Singletary had already submitted his resignation effective the end of September, but Warren fired him on Sept. 14.

Warren also suspended Curtin and Communications Director Justin Roj for 30 days. She contended that a report prepared at her request by Deputy Mayor James Smith showed that Prude’s death wasn’t taken as seriously as it should have been by those at all levels of city government who were familiar with it. Warren said at the time that the public should have been informed of Prude’s death, and the circumstances of it, when it occurred.

The Office of Public Integrity’s investigation report does recommend some changes to city operations. It suggests that officials adopt new policies that clarify which “critical events” are brought to the attention of the mayor and how that reporting is documented.

The report also recommended that, due to increasing Freedom of Information Law records requests and the risks associated with failing to comply with the state laws, the city should restructure and centralize its FOIL program. Doing so would allow staff processing the requests to focus on compliance with state requirements, among other things, states the report.

On Monday, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the City of Rochester and the Rochester Police Department. The organization is asking the court to force the city and police department to turn over police officer disciplinary records.

The NYCLU filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the records on Sept. 15, following the June repeal of state law that previously prevented the public from accessing police disciplinary files. The lawsuit petition states that the city and police department have neither denied nor approved the request, nor have they provided the organization with “a substantive response of any kind.”

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