Chief La’Ron Singletary has retired from the Rochester Police Department, disclosing his decision minutes before he was to join Mayor Lovely Warren in a briefing to City Council.
In a statement, Singletary said he would not “sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character.”
Singletary has been under pressure since the death of Daniel Prude was revealed six days ago. Police body cam footage from March 23 showed officers restraining a naked Prude, placing him face down on the pavement with a “spit hood” covering his head. He died on March 30. The Monroe County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.
Warren and Singletary have drawn criticism for their handling of the case—in particular, the fact that it became public only when the Prude family held a news conference on Sept. 2 and released the body cam footage.
In his retirement statement, Singletary defended his actions.
“The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for,” he wrote. “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.”
Singletary marked 20 years of service this year. He will be in charge of the police department until the end of September.
Warren, who joined the briefing a little late, told City Council members that the entire RPD command staff had shared their decision to retire. Deputy Chiefs Joseph Morabito and Mark Simmons were among them, she said. Effective dates of their retirement were not available.
“This has been very challenging times for the city of Rochester,” Warren said. “The chief was not asked to give his resignation because I do believe that he’s given it his best.”
Warren said Singletary believed his integrity has been challenged.
“He has dedicated 20 years to this city and to the citizens of Rochester and feels that the events that have happened … could have been done differently, but he didn’t in any way try to cover this up,” the mayor said.
Depending on the effective dates of the retirements, interim measures will be taken to fill the void in police oversight, especially as hundreds take to the streets to protest Prude’s death.
“We will have to find an interim chief,” Warren said. “At this point in time I don’t know (who it will be).”
A native of Rochester, Singletary led a force of more than 700 sworn officers. In a conversation with the Rochester Beacon, he spoke about the need for change, community policing and building trust. However, the Prude case cast a dark shadow on those plans.
Over the weekend, Warren and Singletary held a press conference where the mayor voiced her support for his actions. Still, Black Lives Matter protestors called for Singletary’s and Warren’s resignations, among other demands.
Social media posts from activists view his retirement as a victory.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.