Rochester, N.Y., Police Chief La'Ron Singletary Resigns

Sep 8, 2020
Originally published on September 8, 2020 4:27 pm

Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET

La'Ron Singletary is resigning as police chief in Rochester, N.Y., as protests continue over the March death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, by asphyxiation after being restrained by police. Much of the encounter was caught on video.

Other senior police leaders are joining Singletary in leaving the department, Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren said.

"The entire Rochester Police Department command staff has announced their retirement," Warren told members of the City Council during a video conference Tuesday afternoon.

"That includes the police chief" and deputy chiefs, she added.

The Rochester Police Department later clarified that Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito and Commander Fabian Rivera announced their retirements. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor are both returning to their previously held rank of lieutenant.

"The chief was not asked to give his resignation, because I do believe he is giving his very best," said Warren, who promoted Singletary to the post in April 2019.

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The mayor said Singletary, who spent 20 years on the force, feels that "his career and integrity [have] been challenged."

Warren acknowledged that with the exodus of senior leaders from the department, "it's going to be difficult" to find an interim chief.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Warren said Singletary will remain in charge of the department through the end of the month, and she will meet with the City Council to "chart a path forward."

"I know that there are many questions," she said. "But, this just occurred, and I honestly don't have the answers today."

"We have spoken about maintaining our restraint regarding the ongoing protests and ask all involved to remain peaceful," she added. She also said she remains committed to instituting necessary reforms in the police department.

Warren ordered the suspension of seven police officers who were involved in Prude's arrest last week after video footage of the encounter was released.

As NPR reported last week:

"Warren said she was told that Prude had overdosed in police custody, and did not see video of the encounter until Aug. 4.

"She said she has since ordered Singletary to provide her with video from any in-custody death or use of force incident within 24 hours."

In the days since the footage surfaced, community members have accused Singletary of covering up the circumstances of Prude's death and called for him as well as the mayor to resign.

Free the People Roc, the activist organization that has been coordinating nightly protests outside police headquarters and urging Singletary to step down, celebrated the news in a statement Tuesday.

The organization said "we accept" the chief's and command team's resignations, saying "the movement for justice is winning" but more work is needed to end police violence and hold local leaders accountable.

"Let's keep the pressure up until all those responsible for Daniel Prude's murder and cover up — including Mayor Lovely Warren — have resigned, taken responsibility, and donated their pensions to the families they allowed to be harmed," it wrote.

In a statement, Singletary accused "outside entities" of attempting to destroy his character and integrity over the past week, according to NPR member station WXXI.

"The members of the Rochester Police Department and the greater Rochester community know my reputation and know what I stand for," Singletary said. "The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude's death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for."

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