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Rochester officials will ‘reimagine policing surrounding mental health’ after death of Daniel Prude

Officials in Rochester, New York, have announced that they will be moving crisis intervention out of the police department following the death of Daniel Prude (pictured) who lost consciousness in police custody 

Officials in Rochester, New York, have announced that they will be moving their crisis intervention team out of the police department following the death of a black man with mental health issues who lost consciousness after officers held a hood over his head.    

On March 23, Daniel Prude, 41, was naked and handcuffed when he was held down by officers who responded to a 911 call made by his brother, seeking help for Prude’s erratic behavior.

Police body camera video shows the officers covering Prude’s head with a ‘spit hood’ designed to protect police from bodily fluids, then pressing his face into the pavement for two minutes. Prude died a week later after he was taken off life support.

Footage of his arrest were released by his family members on Wednesday and Thursday.

Following the release of the videos, protests erupted throughout the state of New York and other major US cities, prompting Rochester officials to announce reforms for the city. 

Mayor Lovely Warren announced Sunday that the crisis invention department will be moving out of the police department and into the city’s department of youth and recreation services.  

‘We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassion. In that moment we had an opportunity to protect him, to keep him warm, to bring him to safety, to begin the process of healing him and lifting him up,’ Warren said during a press conference. 

‘We have to own the fact that in the moment we did not do that.’ 

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary also told reporters that he supported the need for reform in his department. 

Mayor Lovely Warren (pictured) announced Sunday that the crisis invention department, and its budget, will be moving out of the police department and into the city’s department of youth and recreation services

Police Chief La’Ron Singletary (pictured) also told reporters that he supported the need for reform in his department

‘I understand that there are certain calls that law enforcement shouldn’t handle alone and we are looking at ways to reimagine policing surrounding mental health, and have been for the last several months,’ Singletary said.

During protests on Saturday night, three officers were treated at hospitals for injuries they suffered when ‘projectiles and incendiary devices’ were hurled at them, according to Lt Greg Bello of the Rochester police. Nine protesters were arrested.

The Democrat and Chronicle reported that some protesters were hit by projectiles as thousands marched through the streets of New York’s third-largest city.

Rev Myra Brown called for about 50 church elders to gather at Spiritus Christi Church in downtown Rochester Sunday evening to serve as a ‘buffer’ so protesters are free to express themselves without police interference.

‘We elders have volunteered to put our bodies on the line to make sure that happens,’ Brown said at the news conference with Warren and Singletary.

The New York Civil Liberties Union criticized the police use of ‘military tactics’ including sound cannons, flash bangs, tear gas, and pepper balls against the demonstrators.

‘People speaking out are not enemy combatants, and to fire flash bangs, tear gas, and pepper balls at demonstrations against police violence only proves the point,’ NYCLU Genesee Valley chapter director Iman Abid said in a statement Sunday. ‘The mayor and RPD must stop these warfare tactics now.’

The marches took place as New York’s attorney general announced Saturday that a grand jury would investigate Prude’s death.

Protesters gather in Rochester, New York, on Saturday following the release of video showing the death of Daniel Prude

Protesters (pictured in Rochester) have demanded police accountability and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies

Protesters use umbrellas and homemade shields in an attempt to protect themselves from pepper,’less-lethal’ munitions and teargas in Rochester, New York, on Saturday 

‘The Prude family and the Rochester community have been through great pain and anguish,’ Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Saturday. She said the grand jury would be part of an ‘exhaustive investigation’.

Protesters have demanded police accountability and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies.

The Monroe County medical examiner listed Prude’s manner of death as homicide caused by ‘complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint’.

The report cited excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.

Protests have broken out in Rochester, after footage of Daniel Prude’s arrest was made public. Prude was shown with a ‘spit hood’ over his head and died days later

A police internal affairs investigation cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, concluding in April that their ‘actions and conduct displayed when dealing with Prude appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training’.

The seven officers were suspended Thursday after Prude’s family released the video from the scene.

Mayor Warren thanked Attorney General James for taking action in what she called ‘a trying time in Rochester’.

Protesters have called on Warren and Singletary to step down over the delay in releasing details of Prude’s death. The mayor and police chief said Sunday they had no plans to resign.

‘The chief and I, we love our city. We were born and raised here,’ Warren said Sunday. ‘We are committed to making the necessary changes to make sure this community moves forward.’

Warren said the city is working to re-envision the police department and the way it responds to mental health crises.

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