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.
Based upon the publicly available video cam and other public information, our Rochester officers’ response to the Daniel Prude police emergency call was exemplary. The overwhelming probability is that this unfortunate man inadvertently killed himself with a PCP overdose. Fatal elevations of body temperature are a common feature of PCP overdose death. The fact that Mr. Prude took all his clothes off in the street on a chilly March morning strongly suggests that he was experiencing PCP-induced hyperthermia. He was restrained to prevented him from hurting himself or others during the drug-induced psychosis by the competent and humane actions of the officers responding. While in custody awaiting transport, he likely slipped into a drug-induced coma, which is the probable cause for his cessation of breathing at that point. An EMT at the scene can be heard speculating that “he is likely a PCP overdose”. A spit hood, which passes air freely, was applied by the officers because Mr. Prude told the officers that he had Covid. The spit hood cannot caused asphyxiation, although this might appear so to an uninformed viewer of the video. PCP overdose death is the most reasonable explanation, based upon the publicly available information. PCP was still present in his blood at the time of his death one week later, and so must have been extremely high when he stopped breathing.
Mayor Warren alleged that there was improper behavior by the officers and by our police Chief. Based on these known facts and the well known clinical presentation of those with fatal PCP overdose, it appears likely that her allegations and actions will be proven unsupportable. Certainly, there is sufficient question to initiate a transparent public investigation of the facts, so that justice is served, and the voters are informed. We cannot allow our police to be subject to mob demands. We are a nation of laws and due process.
Having known and worked with La’Ron Singletary, Mark Simmons, and many others in the RPD command staff for a number of years, Rochester is losing men of integrity and commitment — over a media driven feeding frenzy, misdirected from the start.
The mayor tried to make the Chief the scapegoat and he refused. She claims she never saw the bodycam footage or knew the severity until a few weeks ago. That is either a lie or incompetence on her part. As lawyer and mayor she knows that 99% of in custody deaths result in lawsuit. She should have watched the video and knowing the chief, and I do, I am sure he either gave it to her or made it available. She then claimed the AG told her not to talk about it and the AG showed that was a lie so with the ball back in her court she threw the Chief under the bus. Any person with his degree of integrity and honor will not stand for being accused of lying. She has blamed everyone but herself. The community lost an advocate and the police lost a lot of great leaders due to her.
I see Singletary as a pawn in someone’s bigger plan. I hope he gets the chance to clear his name so we can better understand the dynamics of the unrest we are all experiencing