Sep 3, 2020
Rochester Mayor Press Conference Transcript September 3: Death of Daniel Prude
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren held a press conference to address the death of Daniel Prude on September 3. She said seven police officers involved in his arrest have been suspended. Read the transcript of her briefing here.
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Lovely Warren: (00:01)
Mr. Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental healthcare system, our society, and he was failed by me. And I stand here against the advice of our corporation counsel, but I would not be who I am today if I don’t stand on my own truth. I must apologize to the Prude family and to all of our community. In August of 1962, my cousin Ebony Fairwell, who stands here with me today. Her grandfather, Rufus T. Fairwell, Sr was a victim of police brutality and eventually became the first citizen of Rochester to receive a settlement from police brutality from the City of Rochester. That was 1962. It is now September of 2020, and Daniel Prude’s death has proven yet again, that many of the challenges that we face then are the same challenges that we face today.
Lovely Warren: (01:32)
Now I am taking action to address these challenges and build upon our city’s work to address racism in all of its forms. Doing this work has been at the heart of my service as mayor of this city. Yet today is not the day to recount those efforts, but to double down on them. I have never shied away from taking action in holding our police or anyone that fails in their duties in our community accountable. That is why I am suspending the officers in question today against the advice of counsel, and I urge the attorney general to complete her investigation. I understand that the union may sue the city for this. They shall feel free to do so. Actually, I’ve been sued four times from actions that I have taken against racist acts that I believe. In addition, I have addressed with the police chief how deeply and personally and professionally disappointed I am for him failing to fully and accurately inform me about what occurred with Mr. Prude. He knows he needs to do better to truly protect and serve our community, and I believe that he will.
Lovely Warren: (03:13)
Experiencing and ultimately dying from a drug overdose in police custody as I was told by the chief is entirely different than what I ultimately witnessed on the video provided to me by the law department on August 4th. I have since ordered the chief to provide me with video from any in custody death, or use of force incident within 24 hours. I have also ordered Chief Singletary to provide two briefings to me, regarding both the criminal and internal aspects of the investigation immediately, and charged him to provide a plan within 30 days to further address our police department’s response to mental health costs.
Lovely Warren: (04:03)
I also want to be very clear today about what I knew about Mr. Prude’s death and when I knew it. After our police department responded to the 911 call on March 23rd, I was informed later that day by Chief Singletary that Mr. Prude had an apparent drug overdose while in custody. Chief Singletary never informed me of the actions of his officers to forcibly restrain Mr. Prude, I only learned of those officers’ actions on August 4th when corporation counsel, Tim Curtin reviewed the video while fulfilling the FOIL request from Mr. Prude’s attorney. At no time prior to August 4th, did Chief Singletary or anyone make me aware or show me a video of the actions of the RPD officers involved in Mr. Prude’s death. What I saw in that video was a man who needed help, a man who needed compassion, a man who needed humanity, a man who we should have respected, a man who was in crisis. Our response to him was wrong, and we need to change how we deal with these situations going forward.
Lovely Warren: (05:41)
And that is why after discussion with city council, we will provide additional funding and partner with Monroe County to double the availability of the forensic intervention team, or FIT, or retool our own [FACET 00:05:57] program to pair mental health professionals with law enforcement to allow them to provide a more robust response to mental health related 911 calls. I have also ordered the use of FIT, or FACET by RPD whenever possible and for them to work with 911 to develop the protocols. I will also lead the fight to establish a permanent funding stream for an expanded FIT program. However, these are just the first steps to address this long neglected issue to protect and serve our most vulnerable citizens. That’s why I am calling on and charging the co-chairs of our racial and structural equity commission to develop and recommend longterm solutions to improve access to mental health, particularly, acute care for those in crisis like Mr. Prude. But I want to take a step back to truly address this. How we failed to serve our community, how I believe I failed to serve our community, to fight injustice, to stand up for those in need and to ensure that everyone has a fighting chance at life. In this case, my failure in all of this that I truly say sorry for was using my legal mind in all of this. I’m an attorney by trade, and with the mindset of an attorney and not necessarily the mindset of a human being, of a mother, of a friend, of a sister, of a daughter, of a cousin, didn’t rely on the very fabric of what makes me, and my foundation. I’m a faith, I’m a family. The personal part of me that wanted to reach out to the Prude family to give them my heartfelt condolences of support. I allowed the legal side of me, being sued four times already, losing my mentor on my birthday, and the assistant attorney general’s request that we not come forward and talk about this, to keep me from following what I know is my true North, and what this community has counted on for me, time and time again. I’m proud to have my cousin Ebony standing here with me. We’re born 11 days apart, went to the same schools, [inaudible 00:09:03]…
Lovely Warren: (09:03)
… Went to the same schools, educated together, raised together like sisters. I started this off by talking about her grandfather. That in 1962, Rufus Fairwell was the first black man to win a lawsuit against this city for police brutality. This is who I am. This is where I come from. And this is very personal to me. Not only today, but every day it has been personal.
Lovely Warren: (09:41)
I have stood up wanting to be on the right side of justice and on the right side of history, and this is no different. Mr. Prude lost his life in our city, he lost his life because of the actions of our police officers. He lost his life because of the failure of a lot of different systems on that day. And as of today, as I stand here today, as I stood here before, this community, when he was a young 12 year old boy, who jumped into the river, who lost his life because the same system failed him [Treyveon Row 00:01:30].
Lovely Warren: (10:31)
I stand here in front of you on behalf of Mr. Prude. I do not deny, we failed him. We failed him. When he got off the train in Buffalo. We failed him when he went to the hospital, we failed him when his family called 911, and even in his death, even in his death, we failed him.
Lovely Warren: (11:02)
But today we have an opportunity to make it right, to learn from his death in our city and to do everything possible, to make sure it doesn’t happen this way again. This thought process of institutional and structural racism in our community has been on the forefront of my mind for years. But this year we took a bold step forward in joining with the County, and forming The Race Commission. Last year, I worked with The National League Of Cities to form The Racial Equity And Leadership Institute and brought that to City Hall. Because I knew that the only way we are going to change institutional and structural and systematic racism in our city is to face it head on.
Lovely Warren: (12:05)
We have to. And when I brought forth the race commission, I had no idea that Mr. Prude had died in the manner in which he did. We started the work because it was the right thing to do. The commissioners we have charged, and the people who are working on this commission, I need them, this city needs them. This County needs them, to correct the institutional and structural wrongs that we have embedded in the systems across the board. In our police department, in city hall, in our health systems, in our county system, in our state system. Even the very fact that civil service law precludes me as the mayor of this city from doing certain things even in this instance, that is a problem.
Lovely Warren: (13:15)
We are hamstrung by certain laws and it is wrong. And it is time for all of that to change. It is time that our community join forces with the advocates, with the people who are protesting in our streets, and the government to stand up for what is right. And what is right is that everyone is treated humanely, that everyone is treated with justice. What is right, that there will not be, and can’t be a justice system for black people, and a justice system for white people.
Lovely Warren: (13:59)
That there isn’t a health system for white people, and a health system for black people. That there isn’t a school system for black kids, and a school system for white kids. But today in 2020, there’s a justice system for black people and a justice system for white folks. There’s a justice system for those people that have lost their lives at the hands of officers across our country. They deserve justice. Today in 2020, there’s a separate school system for black kids and white kids. A separate health system for black people and white people. And it’s wrong.
Lovely Warren: (14:53)
Once and for all, we have to deal with the things in our community that we have never wanted to face. It is time that we stop sugar coat things. So I join with the advocates for calling for police reform. I join with the family of Daniel Prude and calling for the Attorney General’s office to finish the investigation.
Lovely Warren: (15:24)
I join with this city, demanding that justice be served here in whatever that justice may be. But I’m not going to hide behind a law because I’m a lawyer. I join with city council in asking that the charges against the protesters be dropped. We have a lot of work to do here. We are in a moment in time, not only in this city, but in this country to deal with the very issues that this country has failed to face century after century generation, after generation.
Lovely Warren: (16:08)
My heart is with the family of Daniel Prude. As a mayor, as a mother, as a sister, as a cousin, as a daughter of a black woman, I’m filled with grief and anger at myself for all the failures that led to his death. I know that I must do better as a leader of this community. We all must do better as leaders in our community. Our police department must do better. Our health system must do better. Our entire society must make these changes a priority. We cannot continue to fail black lives this way. We can’t improve our city or improve our nation until we face the reality, we face the undeniable truth. Racism is alive and well in every system in America, and the buck stops today with me here at City Hall, it stops. And we must as a society, as a city, as a community, face the truth. Institutional and structural racism led to Daniel Prude’s death.
Lovely Warren: (18:00)
Prude’s death. I won’t deny it. I stand before it and I’ll call for justice upon it. I’ll take any questions that you may have.
Speaker 2: (18:18)
Despite your words today and your apology. There is a concern about lack of transparency from the police department, from the city. And Letitia James had also sent another release [inaudible 00:18:32] today saying that, “We have not asked the city of Rochester North RPB to refrain from launching an internal investigation. In fact, we encourage both Rochester and RPB to proceed with an internal review simultaneous to our investigation.” It seems to go against some of the things we heard that yesterday.
Lovely Warren: (18:52)
Our understanding yesterday from the assistant attorney general and from conversations that we’ve had and based on the timeline that we can provide to you was that they wanted the city to remain out of this until they have finished their investigation. Now, today they are telling us something different. We’re hearing that directly from the attorney general and therefore we will proceed. And that is why we have suspended these officers and we will proceed with our internal investigation.
Speaker 2: (19:22)
Did the chief … I was a little confused about the chief. So the chief knew more than what he actually told you?
Lovely Warren: (19:30)
The understanding of what that she knew you would have to talk to him. But what I know is what the chief explained to me on March 23rd when Mr. Prude encountered our police officers, what I was told was that he had overdosed and that they were taking him to the hospital for possible overdose and that he may die and that this would be investigated. On March 30th, the police chief informed me that he had passed away and that they were doing an investigation. And no time did I ever know the extent or that there was any hands on incident with these officers until August 4th, well after the attorney general was involved well after the DA’s office did their … turned it over to the AGs office. It wasn’t until we had received the FOIL request, our attorneys were responding to that FOIL request that our corporation council came to meet on August 4th and outlined what he saw and asked me to watch the video.
Lovely Warren: (20:39)
When I watched that video, I was enraged. I wanted to come forward that day.
Speaker 3: (20:46)
Why didn’t you?
Lovely Warren: (20:48)
Our law department explained to me that the attorney general’s office or the assistant attorney general office asked us not to get involved in the investigation and not to do anything until they were done. I asked them to contact them immediately and find out how long it was going to take for them to finish that investigation. When the family came forward, that now allows me to tell my truth, to tell my understanding. Now, I agree with you. August 4th when I found out, I want it to come forward. I allowed the legal minds and the legal side to win out on my humanity on that day. And for that, I apologize.
Speaker 4: (21:43)
Lovely Warren: (21:46)
So there’s a number … I’ve informed police chief secretary that any in custody or any use of force videos needs to be on my desk within 24 hours, we have to, I want to review all of that investigation into this and immediately because the AGs office has let us know today that she encourages us to go forward. These officers are now suspended, and we will proceed with our investigation and doing the things that we know and have done in the past to hold our officers accountable when they act outside the confines of the law.
Speaker 5: (22:25)
Is this tenure on a short term basis now? Is there a chance that you will replace your team?
Lovely Warren: (22:32)
No. No. I’m going to work with Chief Singletary to rectify the wrongs that was done here.
Speaker 6: (22:38)
How many officers were suspended?
Lovely Warren: (22:40)
Eight. I’m sorry, seven.
Speaker 7: (22:45)
I have a question. I don’t understand the use of this [inaudible 00:22:47]?
Lovely Warren: (22:52)
I can not answer that question. You would have to get that from the police department.
Speaker 8: (22:56)
Are they suspended with pay or without pay?
Lovely Warren: (22:59)
Based on a civil service law, they are suspended with paying and that’s one of the things that I’m talking about as the institutional structural issue that we have here because the city has to abide by certain rules and regulations. In civil service law, those types of things need to change. There are [inaudible 00:23:21] and as a state, and as a city and as a County, we need to look at these laws and we need to fix them so that they are equitable across the board and allow justice to be served when justice needs to be served.
Speaker 9: (23:34)
I heard protestors, demonstrators in the streets today calling for your job.
Lovely Warren: (23:40)
And I understand their frustration and sentiment, but I can assure them that I’m going to work with them to improve and change this system that needs to be changed.
Speaker 9: (23:53)
In reference to some comments that were made by city leaders after the death of George Floyd and the unrest of Minneapolis. City leaders here in Rochester were saying we don’t have those kinds of problems here. You just outlined the history for us that there were those problems and you believe that they still exist today. Do you think that was inaccurate to say that then based on what you’re saying?
Lovely Warren: (24:14)
So when we talk about holding officers accountable, that’s what we’re talking about. When Christopher Pate was beaten in our streets, I came forward, I called for those officers to be held accountable. They both were terminated subsequently. They both sued me. So when I talk about the problems, it is the fact that when officers do something in this city, I have, our police chief has held them accountable and we come forward, and we’re upfront and we’re transparent about that. In this particular case on August 4th, when I learned about it, the advice of counsel, I did not say anything because of what we understood from the assistant attorney general at that point in time. Now that the family has come forward, I can come forward and I can tell my truth, my understanding, still against the advice of counsel.
Speaker 9: (25:23)
And I know you’re speaking publicly today about failure, which is something you don’t hear very often from mayors of a city like this. Have you spoken to the Prude family? Have you apologized to them? And what’s been their response?
Lovely Warren: (25:36)
I have reached out to the food family. I know that they have a number of demands that they want to talk to me about, and I look forward to working with them. I’ve also spoken to and will continue to speak to leaders of our Black Lives Matter movement and understand that I have worked to do with them as well. At the end of the day, we all have to do our part to make this city and this society better for the next generation. 1962, my cousin’s grandfather was brutalized in the city. I don’t want that to happen to the next generation. In this moment in time, we can and we will commit to getting it right.
Speaker 10: (26:30)
Can we expect the chief [inaudible 00:26:31]?
Lovely Warren: (26:34)
The chief has been spoken to very firmly. He has been given directives very firmly. I expect for him to carry those directives out and if he fails to do so, I will deal with him.
Speaker 11: (26:51)
We’re heading into a long weekend, potentially nice weather. This has made national news. We already see protests. Would you have any words to help [inaudible 00:27:01]?
Speaker 11: (27:01)
Any words to help keep the calm?
Lovely Warren: (27:05)
We have to work together, and we have to acknowledge this tragic death in our city. I want the protesters and everyone to know that I’m committed to working with them to make systematic changes that need to happen, to ensure that the things that have happened to Daniel Prude, and to other people across this country don’t happen in our community again.
Speaker 12: (27:40)
Were there prior complaints against the officers involved?
Lovely Warren: (27:44)
You would have to talk to the Corporation Council about that. I don’t have that list, and I don’t want to give you inaccurate information
Speaker 13: (27:52)
May 30th, after all the unrest, you made the full claim that Rochester isn’t Minneapolis. What led to that statement and knowing what you know now, how would you review what you said then?
Lovely Warren: (28:03)
I said what I said here today, I would have said that on May 30th, I would have said that March 23rd, and I would have said that on March 30th. I would have said what I said today. The fact of the matter is in the city of Rochester, I have always held our officers accountable when I know and believe that they have done something outside of the confounds of the law. I have done that, I will continue to do that, and that’s why I’m standing here today.
Speaker 9: (28:37)
Do you think Daniel Prude would have been treated differently if he was white?
Lovely Warren: (28:41)
Speaker 9: (28:42)
Lovely Warren: (28:44)
It’s just the way that the system works. I think that Daniel Prude would not have been discharged from the hospital that day. I think that Daniel Prude would have been treated differently when he got off the train at Amtrak. I think that his family would have been treated absolutely differently had they been white.
Speaker 9: (29:01)
To clarify that, you’re talking about the hours before he was arrested, Daniel Prude was hospitalized for mental health concerns. He was released hours later. His brother called because he was concerned once again about his mental health. And that’s where we get to the arrest-
Lovely Warren: (29:16)
Absolutely. I believe that of Daniel Prude was white all of those systems would not have failed him. Today there is two healthcare systems. We’re seeing it with COVID-19 in the coronavirus. There’s two justice systems. You see it every day. There’s two school systems. We see it everyday. It is time that we stop trying to not acknowledge that, and call it what it is. It’s Racism. Structural and institutional Racism. And today we have to change that. If we do not acknowledge it, nothing changes. And I am ready, and have it ready and have been working to make sure that the systems across the board changing when it comes to fairness, and equity, and equality for all people, no matter your race, no matter what you’re born at, no matter of who choose to love.
Speaker 14: (30:39)
[crosstalk 00:30:39] I understand [crosstalk 00:30:40] settlement proposal that-
Speaker 15: (30:41)
[crosstalk 00:30:41] You said they still invited you to a community meeting tonight, are you-
Lovely Warren: (30:43)
It’s at 6:30, yes.
Speaker 15: (30:44)
Lovely Warren: (30:45)
Speaker 16: (30:46)
Speaker 15: (30:47)
Can you comment on the settlement proposal that was offered to the Prude family that they rejected?
Lovely Warren: (30:53)
You would have to talk to Corporation Council. I know that they have been talking with their attorneys. Attorneys have been talking to attorneys.
Speaker 16: (31:01)
Were you aware of this case being presented, or referred to the State AG back in April, were you aware of the [inaudible 00:31:09] crime that was a homicide?
Lovely Warren: (31:12)
No, I was aware on March 23rd, that I was told that Mr. Prude had overdosed and he was being taken to the hospital and that he may die, and then it may be investigated because he was in police custody. On March 30th, when he passed away, I was notified that he had passed away and that it was being investigated. I was not informed of anything as to Mr. Prude, the attorney general, the DA, or anything until August 4th, when Corporation Counsel notified me and asked me to watch the video.
Speaker 18: (31:58)
When you talk about charges being dropped against the protesters, just most recent, yesterday [crosstalk 00:32:03]-
Lovely Warren: (32:07)
The protesters that were there yesterday, what I understand to have happened, they wanted to attend a press conference, that’s what they were there for. They would preclude it from doing so, those charges need to be dropped.
Speaker 17: (32:21)
Did Chief Singletary know the exact what happened or was he told to-
Lovely Warren: (32:26)
[crosstalk 00:32:26] You need to talk to Chief Singletary about what he knew it.
Speaker 18: (32:30)
But you’re not talking about dropping chargest against protesters that have happened-
Lovely Warren: (32:34)
Speaker 18: (32:35)
Prior to yesterday, or perhaps subsequent to-
Lovely Warren: (32:39)
The protest that the people that were arrested yesterday, I joined with city council asking for those charges to be dropped.
Speaker 19: (32:50)
Police saw three officers, I believe on the body cam video, at least I did, why seven total, I guess, what was the role of the others?
Lovely Warren: (32:56)
Because the other people had a duty to stop what was happening. It is the same reason why I asked for McEvoy to be held responsible when Sippel beat Christopher Pate, you have a duty to stand up. When you see something wrong. You cannot stand around and allow these types of things to happen. They have a duty.
Speaker 19: (33:30)
So they were on scene with the subject.
Lovely Warren: (33:33)
Speaker 20: (33:34)
Mayor, when did city officials first contact the Prude family? Did they talk to them at all before yesterday?
Lovely Warren: (33:43)
So legally, I’m sorry, you have to talk to attorneys once you know that they have attorneys. And so, I believe that there has been a timeline provided when the attorneys have been in contact with one another.
Speaker 20: (33:57)
Lovely Warren: (34:00)
I believe that the attorneys have been talking and you have to talk to Corporation Counsel about that, but I know that there is a demand for a sum of money from the city. And what usually happens is those settlements are negotiated.
Speaker 21: (34:16)
Why isn’t Chief Singletary here?
Lovely Warren: (34:23)
Because it’s my thought that I needed to stand before this community solely, and address what I believe was the challenges in my response to our community. Thank you all.
Speaker 21: (34:40)
Speaker 22: (34:40)
Whoo, it’s hot.