Sep 4, 2020
Rochester Police Press Conference Transcript September 4: Death of Daniel Prude
The Rochester Police Department held a press conference on September 4 to address the arrest and death of Daniel Prude. Read the transcript of their briefing with updates here.
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Police Official: (00:07)
First and foremost, our condolences go out to the Prude family and their loss. If there’s one message that could be taken from here today, it should be this: our country is in a crisis, there are many changes that are needed. Some of them are very complicated. Some answers are already known. Our justice system is founded on a principle to seek the truth and to have equal justice for all, regardless of who you are. Seeking the truth, nothing more should be our solution to solving our most pressing problems. Everyone has the responsibility and must be committed to making that process not just better, but perfect. This is not only going to take a commitment, but it’s going to take trust.
Police Official: (01:12)
We did not immediately address this matter because of one reason: it was necessary for us to seek answers to several questions that we had. Some of which are the shared concerns from the family and the public. It’s important to provide accurate information that has not been released by city government. Transparency has to be more than just a word to be repeated. It should be a course of action to follow. The union first learned of the incident by the chief’s office, reaching out to request our members who were involved in the incident with Mr. Prude to speak with investigators from the major crimes that were investigating the matter. This would be a criminal investigation, not an internal investigation. The message that was conveyed from the chief’s office at that time was that there was no concerns with the actions of our members and that they had followed correct protocols per their training.
Police Official: (02:16)
I want to repeat that. There was no concerns with the actions of our members and that they had followed correct protocols per their training. Since it’s a criminal investigation, union representatives did not accompany our members on that interview. Our members involved in that incident agreed to cooperate and agreed to be interviewed, despite having the constitutional right not to do so. The department, after interviewing our members continued the investigation of that incident.
Police Official: (02:53)
During the subsequent investigation, no other members, as far as we know were interviewed and the union was not involved in any way with that investigation. Our union representation would not come into play until once that investigation had concluded, and if an internal investigation were to commence. Only yesterday, did we learn that an internal investigation has been initiated only yesterday, did we learn that seven of our members would be suspended.
Police Official: (03:33)
Like everyone else, we have concerns. A troubling concern is on the releasing of evidence during a criminal investigation, there is an absolute prejudicial concern on taking such a reckless action regarding any incident that is an ongoing criminal investigation. I can think of no other situation to my knowledge in this city that I can recall when that has occurred. Such action would never be taken against a civilian suspect who is a subject of a criminal investigation.
Police Official: (04:08)
Police officers deserve the same consideration and respect. But it’s important to remember, the release of information is needed to be transparent, but it must be balanced with ensuring the rights and the protections of any individual involved in that investigation, and that includes victims and suspects. The union has been called out in several social media accounts as being aware of circumstances of this incident and even being a participant in withholding information. Without a conclusion to this criminal investigation, we know no more than anyone else does at this time.
Police Official: (04:52)
From our limited involvement in this matter, and the lack of additional information we have had no review or internal discussions on this incident up until this conference has occurred. The union was not aware of any concerns and were not made aware of any concerns that may have been raised by the family or anyone else until being made aware only minutes before the press conference on Wednesday. After the press conference and the subsequent events that transpired our initial response was ensuring that our members who were called out and named in the press release we’re safe.
Police Official: (05:29)
The union was placed in a very difficult situation and determined it would not be prudent and then the interest of our organization to comment until we had sufficient information to respond in an informative way. And all of you know how difficult that is for me not to want to get out in front of something. The union completely understands the strong concerns that the family and the public has on not being provided with adequate information. We stand along with the family and the public in echoing that same concern.
Police Official: (06:08)
What is disheartening, but certainly not surprising is the immediate reactions from some. Especially social media comments from at least two members of city council calling our members murderers. After working almost around the clock to obtain as much information as possible, we now have a better understanding what has occurred. While we asked for the public and the media to also remember and respect that there’s still an active investigation by the State Attorney General’s Office.
Police Official: (06:49)
We are hopeful that the State Attorney General’s Office will continue to conduct a fair and impartial investigation to the facts of the matter. We believe, and more than believe, we know there’s substantial amount of information to adequately determine what the circumstances are surrounding the death of Daniel Prude. After conversations with our legal team, we have been cautioned and I’ll say over and over again, to be careful in discussion specifics. So I’m going to try to answer your questions in a more general nature and to not get specific since it’s still under investigation. So thank you. So I’ll take-
Speaker 1: (07:47)
When did you first see the video?
Police Official: (07:50)
I just saw the video two days ago.
Speaker 1: (07:55)
Did you watch the whole hour and a half or the 12 minutes roughly clip that was posted widely on the internet?
Police Official: (08:00)
No, I didn’t watch that one. I’m sorry, I did watch that one.
Speaker 1: (08:03)
That one, being?
Police Official: (08:06)
The edited version, briefly. I didn’t give it much review because I don’t look at that as a fair and accurate representation of that night.
Speaker 1: (08:20)
What were your initial thoughts seeing that video two days ago?
Police Official: (08:23)
Well, you look at the video and then you also have to take so much encompassing information in placing that video in the context that it had to be. It’s also important to understand that, especially in an edited video, you may hear things or you may not hear things or what you may see may be a difference in the distance of someone’s actually speaking. There’s a number of factors involved.
Speaker 1: (08:53)
Based on your initial thoughts though, could you just give us a sense of what you initially thought when you saw the video and you did hear some of the comments made by your officers?
Police Official: (09:03)
Well, that’s what I would speak to. That I think in order to answer what you believe or your concerns are, I think you would look at it, not in the context that we did. That’s why we spent two days on this. We worked virtually around the clock. What you saw is not complete and certainly not accurate, but that speaks to what needs to be done.
Speaker 1: (09:28)
What’s inaccurate about it?
Police Official: (09:30)
What needs to be done is to have this investigation completed and to have everything at that point in time shown by an agency that’s independent and that’s investigating it. And that’s the most important thing. There are specific things that are heard in the edited version that need not to be played in that edited version, but to be shown separately and where they occur and why they occur. I have to be careful what I speak to on specifically on that.
Speaker 2: (10:03)
Let me ask you this. Since we’re talking about the officers in the video, let’s talk about their actions. They left a man naked on the screen in the middle of winter, no blankets. Left him sitting there for God knows how long, why couldn’t they just put them in a squad car?
Police Official: (10:19)
Well, I’ll tell you. Exactly 30 to 40 days before this incident occurred, these officers were involved in a training that was state mandated, was written and instructed per the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services Standards, which is something that we should be looking at here in the state versus other states that don’t have these requirements and standards.
Police Official: (10:47)
Exactly what they were trained on, exactly what that training module is, is a step by step example right to the second on what these officers did on that scene. They don’t have the ability to go off script, say, and to do different things. They have to follow exactly the way they’re trained. In fact, under the mental hygiene requirements for our officers, they’ll have an ambulance attendee, asked them not to have handcuffs on the individual in a transport. They are not allowed to remove the handcuffs in that situation.
Police Official: (11:36)
Everything they do, they have to follow protocol when they go for review and when this incident or any actions they do are reviewed, they have to conform exactly with those protocols. And I will tell you … I don’t want to tell you. I want the State Attorney General’s Office to tell you, I think it should be independent. I think it should be at the conclusion, very transparent. I hope, and I’m going to try to ensure, that when they conclude that investigation, that they not only come out with a decision, but they come out with substantial, transparent report and evidence to show. That’s important. Listen, if there’s a need to change the way policing is done, let’s change them. An officer does not have the ability to go or disregard what they’re mandated to do and what they’re trained to do.
Speaker 3: (12:43)
Can you explain the use of the spit shield? What exactly it’s supposed to be used as and how they used it? They kept it on him even after he threw up.
Police Official: (12:53)
I’ll show you. Have you seen the hood? This is what the officers are given. I’ll put it out here and show you it’s used in a case, in situation where an individual is spitting. During the course of this, I think it’s been out there enough where I can say that he made reference to having COVID. He was also spitting. There’s a number of other issues with airborne pathogens that officers encounter that are very dangerous. That’s the purpose and the protocol in place.
Speaker 3: (13:45)
So even as he’s throwing up, you’re supposed to keep it on?
Police Official: (13:49)
I’m not an expert on this, but my understanding in the medical field is that it’s used for those cases and taken into consideration for that matter as well. I’m not going to speak specifically at the point. I think the evidence that the State Attorney General’s Office will have and the videos and all of the videos and all of the information will show immediate reactions per protocols on what the officers should do and what was followed. I will say that we have to do things better, but that also includes on the hospital side, on the EMT side, on the responses to that as well, officers have to be supported as well at 3:30 in the morning.
Police Official: (14:38)
They had to do exactly what they did. Understand the frustrations on our part as well when we have to do the procedures and protocols that we have. We have no choice to vary from them at all. The officers have no desire … I’m not speaking to this incident in particular, but in any. They have no interest to have an individual on the ground. They have no other recourse until that ambulance can get there, until the gurney can get there. And when the officer has to reach out and say, “Where’s the gurney?” I caution, but I say I’m hopeful that all of the evidence and all the accompanying evidence and there’s other videos and other video media that’s there that night, that also should be released at some point in time to show in the context of it.
Speaker 4: (15:47)
[inaudible 00:15:47] from the police chief and the request to actually speak to your unit members. Can you tell us when that happened and when that occurred, was it characterized as a drug overdose cases or something else?
Police Official: (15:57)
On the first part with the chief, I’m sorry.
Speaker 4: (15:59)
Yeah. So when the phone call came from the police chief requesting to speak to the members, did you recall when-
Speaker 5: (16:03)
… call came from the police chief requesting to speak to the members, do you recall when that was? And when that happened, was it characterized as an overdose or something else?
Police Official: (16:08)
Yeah, it was within the next day or the day. We really, as I said, spent the last two days trying to pin down all of this and look at it.
Speaker 5: (16:20)
So what was it marked when you heard that call from the chief, requesting to speak to your members?
Police Official: (16:25)
It within a day or two. If it wasn’t that day, it was the next day.
Speaker 5: (16:29)
And was it characterized as a drug overdose [inaudible 00:00:32]?
Police Official: (16:32)
No, it wasn’t. It was a very brief conversation simply saying that there was an incident the other night, there’s an investigation going on. And what I stated was what was told to me. And we proceeded to do as we have in any similar case. Understand, unfortunately, there’s a substance abuse problem out there, everyone knows about. There’s mental health issues and problems out there. We deal way too often with these situations. I wish and I hope there was another way than police officers at three o’clock in the morning to have to deal with this. But remember, those officers responded that night. They were responding to a call for, for an alarm and a break. And it was a different officer at a different location that was dealing with the Prude family.
Speaker 6: (17:26)
Do you think there should be more help for police officers when you talk about dealing with mental health issues and seeing that as commonplace in the city? Is there a need to have canes that are also called in when it appears that somebody is suffering from some mental health issues?
Police Official: (17:43)
I’ll say this. I absolutely believe that we need more help. It wasn’t that long ago, when in New York State, our mental health facilities were closed and people were just put out on the street and who was the only other agency to be able to deal with them? The police. We definitely need changes and we need help. What we have to understand is, and I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think anybody does, but how do we do that? And how do we respond to it at 3:30 in the morning in a call that may hit give you no indication of what you’re dealing with and what you’re going to encounter? How do we do that at that point? And if we can get to those answers and we can get to that help, I 100% support that as well as everyone of my 700 plus members.
Speaker 7: (18:45)
We’ve been hearing a lot of different dates thrown out there for different local officials. “I found out this on this date.” “No, he didn’t. I found this out on this date.” So in terms of you, what’s the timeline for you? We know you just said in March, you got the call that your members needed to be spoken with. You didn’t find out anything else. From there on out, what did you learn? What documents were you provided at what times? What did you know? And when did you know anything about the investigation, the AG the-
Police Official: (19:12)
What we’re battling, and I don’t want to say battling. We’re trying to deal with a system now that got put into place on the release of videos and then disciplinary matters and personnel records and so forth. Obviously our concerns are those materials that are released are adequately reviewed and redacted. I will say this, the attorney that’s representing the Prude place had FOIA’d my records and the chief’s records. And they did release them and review and redact them. On mine, they didn’t redact them quite as well as they should have, which resulted in my social security number and my home address and whatever being out there.
Police Official: (19:59)
So we’re concerned in dealing with it. As we looked back, we were able to find, and the way this occurs, anytime a video, we have an agreement with the department. If a body worn camera video is going to be released through a FOIA request that we’re notified and the members are notified any member that’s in that video, just so they’re aware and just for safety and concerns that they could have, or they should be aware that it’s out there.
Speaker 7: (20:26)
So in terms of those seven months.
Police Official: (20:29)
Let me get to where I’m going. So upon looking back, and there’s those emails after emails, we found an email dated July 31st that indicated that a body worn video was going to be released. Not files, not records, not reports, but a video. It had no mention certainly, that it involved an in custody death. That would be something that would certainly spark our attention and concern.
Police Official: (20:59)
It went to the members to review. Had we known at that point in time, and that’s July 31st that this was going to be released, we would have raised a concern or at least asked the question, is the investigation complete? I still don’t have an answer why that was done. I’ve had two different answers given to me on why, and it makes no sense to me. I listened to the mayor and all she said was, “Go ask the law department.” The law department was standing right next to her. Why couldn’t he answer it right then? I want to know.
Police Official: (21:36)
I still don’t know. It’s important, we have to figure a way to balance, certainly transparency and I believe in all these situations that you can be transparent. You can stand in front of the public and show something and give some type of … not conclusion, but opinion on what you believe has transpired and what you believe. The public needs that and deserves that. We’re not opposed to that.
Speaker 7: (22:08)
One more question, and then hand it over. But so of your seven law enforcement officials that have been suspended, have you been in contact with them? How are they feeling? How are they reacting? What are they saying? Their names are out there. Sure, their addresses are going to be out there. Are they fearful? Are they remorseful? You know these people. So what are they saying?
Police Official: (22:30)
Certainly, a police officer that is the center of media attention is not concerned for his own welfare or safety, but he is concerned about his family’s, his neighbors as well. As I do myself, that is a concern and they are concerned that. Let’s be honest here. Yesterday, they suspend seven members. The mayor says she’s disappointed in the chief, but he’s going to do better. These seven members are suspended.
Police Official: (23:07)
In fact, one of the members was never on scene with Mr. Prude. Did they not even review that? But that member now has his name out and been suspended.
Speaker 7: (23:21)
Do you know why he was suspended?
Police Official: (23:23)
I don’t think they know why he was suspended, let alone that officer. And the officers are given no information. They’re asked to come in, they’re asked to turn over their equipment and they’re given a sheet and basically told what they’re allowed to do and not to do on that suspension. They cooperated right at the start when asked on this. They had no clue. They’re more in the dark than anyone on all of this. And that is what is concerning. And we share the concerns with the public. We share the concerns with the family. We’ve heard nothing, absolutely nothing on this case.
Speaker 8: (24:07)
Will you be suing over this? Suing the city?
Police Official: (24:07)
I don’t know what the mayor’s referring to for a lawsuit. I’m totally clueless what she means. Do I want a fair investigation from my members? Absolutely. Whatever that conclusion is, then it is.
Speaker 7: (24:26)
Are they remorseful? Are they upset? How are they telling you they feel, these officers?
Police Official: (24:31)
I don’t know. I have not had that conversation with them. Listen, I don’t even know at this point in time, if they even know … well now obviously, but if they knew at any point in time that Mr. Prude was deceased. We haven’t even confirmed that. What we did yesterday was simply ensure that they’re okay and they’re safe. A couple of these officers are very young officers and they’re confused as well. I think when this investigation is over and you compare it to just what the training they went through. To me, it looks like they were watching the training in front of them and doing it step by step, by what that training says to do. So if there’s a problem with that, and there’s an issue with it, let’s change it.
Police Official: (25:40)
If there’s a problem with it and it was identified, the very next day, that training should be changed. What is going to prevent the same occurrence from happening tonight or this weekend to officers that have to follow a protocol? These officers in their internal review, if they vary at all from that training they received, they will face discipline. Look, the one common thing that I think we’ve seen in this past year is any incident that comes into play, you have a mayor or a chief of police who stands in front of the microphones and says that he or she will hold people accountable. Let’s start there with holding who should be held accountable first. If an officer does something wrong outside of protocol, then they should be disciplined appropriately. If they’ve followed exactly the standards and the protocol to a tee, what do you say to them?
Speaker 9: (26:47)
Do you think protocol needs to be changed then when you look at that officer pressing Mr. Prude’s head against the pavement? Because I think when we harking back to George Floyd, we all know that obviously an officer has his knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. So when you look at someone who is naked, he is arrested, so no, he doesn’t have a gun. And there’s moments where he’s still talking as he has the cover over his face, but his face is pushed down into the pavement. And I guess when you say the officers followed protocol, if they don’t follow protocol, then we have a problem. Do you think protocol needs to be changed?
Police Official: (27:27)
Well, I’m not an expert in that, but I will say this, the questions should go to New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. There’s videos out there that show exactly why and how that tactic is used to a tee to what that officer did. They explain it. I don’t have that in front of me and I’m not going to recite it. I haven’t been trained in it. When I looked at the training, when I looked at the reading material and we watched the video, it is exactly the way they’ve been trained. I’ve been cautioned not to say too much, but I have to say that because I saw that and I reviewed that. I ask you to do that because it needs to be independent. The question should go to the people who designed that and who train our people. I’m not an expert in that.
Speaker 10: (28:24)
As president of the Social Club, there are a lot of people. And I talked to a few civil rights folks yesterday that are calling for Chief Singletary to step down. Do you believe he should step down?
Police Official: (28:39)
I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to offer my opinion. It would be my personal opinion, personally at this time. And I don’t think I’m at a point to answer that. Should he be held accountable? Yes. In fact, I think the person that’s holding him accountable should be held accountable, quite frankly. I think the law department should be held accountable. Why have we had several files released that have problems? One of the release files had the name of a minor on it. That by law has to be redacted. Why are these problems keep going on over and over again and nothing’s being done? If our officers do something wrong, they’re held accountable and receive discipline. If they do it again, they receive higher discipline. It’s called progressive punishment.
Speaker 7: (29:42)
Can you share your opinion on whether or not … a lot of people calling for Mayor Lovely Warren to resign. Can you share your opinion on that?
Police Official: (29:44)
I think that the mayor has a cloud over her head right now. And I think that’s distracting from her ability to do her job effectively. I think that it was a careless and reckless press conference that was done yesterday. And we have to remember what’s most important. The safety, the public safety is most important. I did not see anything yesterday that ensured anyone’s safety. And I am at a total loss. I was at a total loss on Monday morning, why she held a press conference on residency. The whole weekend, our people were working overtime. We’re dealing with a number of situations and Monday morning to wake up, to find out that there’s a press conference on residency out of the air. Why? If mayor Warren has issues she’s dealing with, then perhaps she should step aside and make sure that the interests of the city comes first and the safety of the community comes first. That’s what’s most important, not anyone’s personal position in life.
Speaker 11: (31:01)
[crosstalk 00:31:01] you said that the city of Rochester does not have the same problems the rest of the country has. Do you still believe that to be true?
Police Official: (31:08)
Well, let’s put that in context because what I also said, no matter what we do, no matter how good we get, no matter what reforms or changes we put in place, can any of us stand here today and say, we will not have an officer involved incident? No, it’s the job that police officers do. What I said in that context and I’ve said it in the past, is that because of the training standards and the hiring standards that we have, that you don’t have another states, we have and I can honestly say, professional police officers. The problem, when we start comparing incidences going around the country and we see an incident where someone’s murdered, like we saw in Minneapolis, then the question should be, why are not every-
Police Official: (32:03)
Then the question should be why are not every state in this country have those same requirements in place? As a member of the labor movement and representing police labor in particular for many, many years, it’s been a cry from myself and my peers across the country to have national standards put in place.
Speaker 12: (32:26)
Mike, can you talk about the attorney general investigation? What have your officers been asked to … Have they been asked to submit to interviews there and what have you advised them?
Police Official: (32:36)
I’m not aware of what … As far as I know, I don’t know if they’ve been interviewed yet by the state attorney general. I shouldn’t even say because I don’t know if they were involved with the major crimes when they did their investigation. So you’d have to ask, I think, the department.
Speaker 12: (32:54)
Police Official: (32:55)
Speaker 12: (32:55)
Would you advise them to sit for an interview at this point?
Police Official: (33:00)
Would I? Unfortunately, I don’t give them that opinion. Their attorneys will. And that’s something that, as I said before, they were cooperative and agreed to be interviewed right from the start.
Speaker 13: (33:18)
Mike, you talked about training and yet about 10 minutes before that you said that the training these officers got may need to be changed, may not be the best. So it seems to be a little bit of a conflicting there. Officers in this area are trained, yet that training may lead to incidents like this. How do you kind of square that?
Police Official: (33:38)
Well, no, from my personal opinion, if it becomes determined that what the protocols and what the training is is not correct and it could be done better, let’s change that. We trust, and certainly we’re not, in the union’s perspective, involved in the training. We constantly require and request and demand additional training for our people. And that started from the ’70s here, as well as hiring requirements. We trust that a government branch such as New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services have the resources and the experts to put a training module in place that’s correct. I can’t tell you if it is or if it isn’t. That’s the other question that still has to be determined on that. Was anything done there a factor in Mr. Prude’s death? I don’t know that. That’s way above me to determine. That’s what needs to be determined. Do we oppose that? Absolutely not. Not at all.
Speaker 13: (34:51)
Is there a part in the training where it becomes clear after the hood is put on, I mean, when they’re pushing down on it that he’s having trouble breathing, that his voice is muffled?And he wasn’t fighting, so does the training say you can release? I mean, because he was cuffed and ankled.
Police Official: (35:09)
I will speak that there’s evidence there that is contrary to that and what was occurring. I’ve been told over and over again not to get into that. What I will say is there’s substantial amount of evidence to show why the protocols that they used were done. There’s other independent witnesses that confirm that in their statements. That’s important. That’s all part of the investigation.
Speaker 14: (35:40)
Mike, when did you first become aware of the autopsy report?
Police Official: (35:43)
I have not seen that report.
Speaker 14: (35:46)
Would you normally be notified if there was a potential homicide investigation involving officers?
Police Official: (35:54)
We may at some point in time probably have access to that, at the conclusion of the investigation, I’m sure.
Speaker 14: (36:01)
Do you feel there should have been more information from the chief’s office in this investigation given to the union? I mean, the mayor indicated that there was a lot of info being withheld. Do you feel that way?
Police Official: (36:12)
We actually had an internal discussion. Remember, another part of this that I guess we don’t speak to enough is the wellness of every police officer. The job that they do is difficult. The things that they see are very, very difficult as well. It has an impact on them and it affects them and their families as well. I think it’s important that we know that so we make sure that the officer that’s involved in an incident like this is okay. And we want to ensure that his wellness is okay, that his family’s okay. It’s not just the police officer, their entire family that goes through any type of incident, critical incident and that. I absolutely think we should be a part of that. And think that’s part of what we’ve asked for and we’re trying to seek better answers in our negotiations to ensure officer wellness.
Speaker 14: (37:09)
So when did you first learn that-
Speaker 15: (37:11)
Are you all providing any help? Are you all providing any help for those officers and families right now?
Police Official: (37:15)
Well, I will never speak specifically to any member that we represent, but that is our priority, ensuring the welfare.
Speaker 16: (37:32)
Mike, when you got the call from the chief to speak to the officers, I just want to be clear what type of … You use the word investigation a lot. Was it just for an internal investigation or criminal? Can you just be clear on what-
Police Official: (37:41)
And listen, it was a very casual conversation that simply said that we had an incident. I don’t know if it was last night or the night before. Major crimes is conducting an investigation into it and they’d like to speak to the officers that were on scene. Look, I don’t just say, “Oh yeah, go ahead.” It’s not my call. What we do at that point in time, especially when it’s a criminal investigation, is to ensure that the officers have the right to legal representation, consultation, to have an attorney present, the same constitutional right that anyone has in a criminal investigation. Nothing more, nothing less. And that’s exactly how it went.
Speaker 16: (38:26)
So thinking that the officers were the criminals involved? Or just explain major crimes is involved. We know a lot of times there’s a homicide or drugs or something [inaudible 00:38:36] all the time. But major crimes was investigating members of the department? I just want to be clear on that. Sorry if I’m being a knucklehead.
Police Official: (38:42)
In this situation, that would be a protocol. And that’s a question to ask the department. They initiate that based on whatever requirements they have to initiate an investigation to start.
Speaker 12: (38:57)
Doesn’t that seem out of order? You get a call there’s a major crimes investigation, but yet nothing about an internal affairs investigation.
Police Official: (39:05)
No, because it would start that way. We’ve had in-custody deaths before. And an in-custody death can simply be an officer being at the scene when an individual is put into an ambulance and is deceased or whatever at some point in time, or whatever the circumstances are. That, I believe, and that’s a question for the department, how they generate that issue. Like I said, the message that was given to me was that there’s a criminal investigation, that what was offered was that they believe that all the officers did everything appropriate and by protocol. And that was the only information I received. And what we do at that point in time is simply notify our attorneys to meet with the members and that’s between them and the attorney.
Speaker 17: (40:03)
Just to follow up on earlier, was it your understanding that this was a drug overdose custody case? And at what point did that stop being your understanding?
Police Official: (40:16)
I can’t say for 100% sure what I was told if it was … I just can’t recall.
Speaker 17: (40:23)
Was that ever your understanding? That this was a drug overdose death in custody.
Police Official: (40:28)
Well, certainly our understanding is that … Look, we believe that that individual had a severe problem or issues. There’s documentation there listing various drugs. Do I know personally or can I confirm that that … I can’t confirm that. It’s unfortunately what we deal with way more than we should be dealing with. It’s a national crisis.
Speaker 17: (40:59)
It’s just that’s what the mayor has said, her understanding was that it was a drug overdose death in custody [inaudible 00:41:07]. I was just wondering was that ever communicated to you?
Police Official: (41:10)
I heard that through the press conference and comments that she made about information the chief gave her. I’m not privy to that. I heard that when you heard that. And I don’t know the circumstances of why there’s concern by her to the chief. They don’t bring me in to those conversations, believe it or not.
Speaker 18: (41:31)
Just for clarification, so then when the police chief’s phone call came, as you recall, about a day or two later, then Mr. Prude would still have been alive when you received the phone call. So was it even a death investigation or inquiry to begin with?
Police Official: (41:47)
Right, I believe he had not deceased at that point in time.
Speaker 18: (41:47)
Because he passed on the 30th. So you didn’t receive the phone call before that day?
Police Official: (41:50)
Speaker 18: (41:52)
So [inaudible 00:41:53] that it was not even a death investigation when you received a phone call from the police chief?
Police Official: (42:02)
Understand the department initiates investigation to whatever their protocols, their requirements are. I simply get notified of it. As I said before, these are not uncommon. And sometimes there’s absolutely, I believe most in a number of those cases, investigations done just to ensure that the evidence is preserved and everything is recorded in case or need or if there’s a concern or any additional information is determined. I can’t even tell you how many times it occurs, but it’s not really that uncommon, which is unfortunate and telling to what our problems are. We have a number of OD deaths in this community, I don’t know, daily, weekly, monthly. Way more than we should.
Speaker 12: (43:02)
Do you know if your officers were interviewed before he passed?
Police Official: (43:03)
Do we know? We don’t know, do we? You know what? I could probably find that information out. The department could probably answer that easier than I could.
Speaker 14: (43:12)
How would you characterize the relationship right now between city hall and police department?
Police Official: (43:16)
Oh great. We have to work together. We’ve got to cooperate, both the city with the department. Listen, we don’t have a choice in that or the department doesn’t have a choice in it, and city hall doesn’t. That’s the requirement that we have to do for this community. And if something’s not being done correctly, then it should be changed. And if there’s accountability, then hold people accountable. I will say that I think, as I stated at the start, that there needs to be more emphasis on working together, getting information together. We have nine city council members. I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve had a conversation other than maybe say hello in passing with any of them. And this started going back to their desire to work on a police accountability board, which as you recall, we were left out of the process then. And we can go into that. And we’ve heard that a million times. But they’re part time city council members that ask questions, but certainly don’t do any work that they should be doing.
Police Official: (44:39)
Spend a little time. They can come to me. I’ve had that relationship for years with other council members. And I would provide any information. We’ve never gone through budget hearings without having 100 questions by council members. They want to hear from us as well as from management and the police department as well. Only a week ago, they had a working public safety committee meeting on police overtime. Not one question. Not one of them reached out. All that was done in the answers from city hall and the police management was to blame the union contract. There’s easy answers to the questions that were being asked. They never got them. I wish they would just …
Police Official: (45:27)
Everyone talks about change and getting to better. Then let’s start and let’s do it. It takes communication and cooperation. We’ve been willing and we’ve been saying that for quite a while. I think the Locust Club has a reputation of being concerned on police practice and how we deal with the community. We were adamant when they took us out of the neighborhoods. We stood up and voiced concern on a zero tolerance initiative that basically said anything moved out there, you pull over and give them a ticket too. I didn’t see council members, well, I did see one. But I didn’t see other people in the community raising concerns. A police union was doing that. We’re very vocal on issues that we think. Why would we support policing that is going to be in conflict with our community that we should be a part of? And we have been until they took us out the neighborhoods. And now they say we’re not good neighbors.
Police Official: (46:34)
You talk about accountability, talk to the mayor, talk to city council, talk to the chief. Those were the people that did that. And now we have a section being built that’s going to go into the neighborhoods and we have people on city council that are opposed to it. We didn’t ask for anything extravagant. We said, “Give us an old building. Just put us in the neighborhoods so we can get back to where we were before 2004.” We worked hard for relationships in this community. Our record shows that.
Police Official: (47:09)
Unfortunately, in this past year, you put the name police union out there and it’s nothing but attacks. I have a city council member that puts social tweets on and talking about police unions in other parts of the country, not one article about here. My response to him was I Googled corrupt politician and I think I got 69 million hits. What does that accompany? What are we accomplishing by that dialogue? How about working together? They get on city council. We’ve got experience and we’re not appointed. So we can tell you the truth, not what we’re told to tell you because we’re appointed. We have an interest and we’re a stakeholder in this city. And our officers are committed. Yes-
Police Official: (48:03)
And our officers are committed. Yesterday was a very difficult day for us. Yesterday was the six year anniversary of our brother Daryl. We went through and our officers went through the tactical unit that worked hand in hand day in and day out with Daryl, ended their night in about an 18 or 19 or 20 hour shift when they always take this day off, yesterday off, to be by themselves. They weren’t. They were out dealing with protests. You talk about wellness. You talk about getting to a better place. All I hear from politicians is a bunch of garbage.
Police Official: (48:47)
We’re willing. Don’t compare me to someplace else in another part of the country. I won’t compare you to that as well. Hold us accountable for what we do here and what we’re willing to do and what we’re willing to say and where we’re willing to get to a better place. I would pray that I never ever have to deal with another matter on police discipline again. That would be utopia. I have enough other matters to deal with. We have a huge amount of things on our plate besides just representing members here. We’re ready. We’re willing. Let’s get there. Let’s quit the talk and get to the action.
Do you think the mayor was being truthful about what she said or what she knew and when she knew it with this case?
Police Official: (49:41)
You want my opinion or fact? I think they’re both the same. I don’t think she was truthful. I just probably put myself out there, but I don’t care. I think the community has responded to that press conference. I don’t think, I don’t know. I can’t speak for everyone.
Police Official: (50:06)
I have not had communications with the mayor. And so several weeks I had a number of emails last week to her that have gone on unanswered. The last time I believe any city public union has any contact with her was when we requested during the … Well, we’re still in the pandemic, right? But we had ongoing weekly Zoom meetings in order to ensure the protections of our members and all city workers during the crisis and the continued crisis here as well. And we’re dealing … When these factors get to a point that they’re out in front of a pandemic that we’re dealing with and we’re dealing with the protests and large group settings, everyone’s completely forgot about that. And that’s still a concern and it’s still a concern that our members bring home to their families. That’s why I think we need to immediately get something in place. If there needs to be change, let’s do it. Quit talking, start doing. Quit blaming and talk about cooperating.
Police Official: (51:25)
I think just the part after she said, “Good afternoon.”
[ inaudible 00:51:43].
Police Official: (51:46)
You have the same thing that I saw. I mean, ask her, ask the department, ask the questions. You know what to ask? I pointed in directions to look. I would reach out to the Division of Criminal Justice Services and ask them. And some of the things that I told them. I think the AG’s office is where everything should be directed at this point. And if that’s not independent enough, then let’s find another independent place to go, but that’s okay. And then, look, when it comes down to it, I ask you the same question I asked myself. If an officer is trained this specific way, and they follow that training to a T, how do you hold that officer accountable to other than doing what he was trained to do? If that’s not the case, then do what you have to do.
Police Official: (52:48)
We understand that. Listen, we are involved in internal investigations all the time. All we seek in any of those is to ensure that it was a fair process and due process was given and the punishment is fair. It’s not fair. Right now, our officers can’t go to a hearing. If they believe they absolutely did nothing wrong and we have a number of cases where that has occurred where the officers are very adamant. They go to a hearing, they request a hearing. They may get an offer prior to that hearing. They may get an offer that might be three days or five days or a letter or whatever. If they go to a hearing, we’re told that officer off the table, in fact, it’s going to be a lot worse now. And remember, they go to a hearing, they get exonerated. And then the hearing officer comes out and finds them not guilty.
Police Official: (53:48)
Then the chief can simply say, “Thank you for the recommendation, but that officer’s guilty. And here’s the punishment.” If we want civilian review, then why do we not have an arbitration? I don’t want to call it arbitration. A neutral, a judge, hearing those hearings and then that decision being binding. That takes the politics out of this because if you don’t see the politics in what’s going on now with police matters, then I’m not sure why you’re here because that’s exactly what’s occurring.
One thing, if you go back to this case specifically, you heard from the chief, you said back in March, was there any other communication about this or involving seven officers, six officers that were on the scene between March and [inaudible 00:06:47]?
Police Official: (54:48)
No. No, not at all to my knowledge.
To the city hall or-
Police Official: (54:56)
To the city hall? With city hall? No, I think I stated. It wasn’t until yesterday or the day before that we found the email with the video acknowledgement that’s going to be released on it. And that was July 31st. We wouldn’t have looked for that had there not been the press conference and this information. Understand there’s a lot going on, certainly and the pandemic and that was at the beginning of it, but these things are constantly evolving and revolving and continuing and other situations that we’re dealing with come forward. But certainly if there was anything going on that we should have been made aware of, we should have been made aware of number one, but in a criminal investigation, it’s got to go its course. And there’s even a court case with the locus club going back to the early nineties, I think it was, that is very strict and straightforward on our ability to represent and not represent in a criminal matter. What we provide obviously is legal counsel for our member.
When did you first learn the severity of this case? Was it when you saw a video recently?
Police Official: (56:20)
Well, I don’t know if it’s severity or certainly the concern from the … It was from the press conference and, and listen, no clue only as that press conference … Actually, I don’t even know if we knew an hour before or whatever, that there was a press conference. We had no indication at all and no heads up on it from anyone.
Were you aware of any potential settlement being discussed among the city and Daniel Prince’s family?
Police Official: (56:55)
I’m totally lost. I mean, you have to have the criminal investigation completed before you talk about settlement or are they trying to cover up what the law department did by releasing information? And now is there something going on? Those are the concerns and questions we have with city hall and we’re not privy to it. Like I said, we have a lot of concerns and I think we share our concerns with the public and with the family, some of their concerns I’m sure. There’s a lot of questions out there. How can the mayor speak about a settlement? Until everything’s there, why would you have a conversation with an attorney on a settlement of a lawsuit when you don’t know what the results of that investigation is going to show?
Police Official: (57:45)
Why would you give them money until that’s settled? Or if they are, that’s their concern, not ours, but I’m more concerned why she would speak to that at the press conference. And why, if there’s a question with the law department, are we not hearing from the law department or she should just answer questions. Not say, “You’re going to have to ask the law department.” They work for her. I think their office is pretty close to each other. Those are questions that I can’t answer. I think I have the same questions that you do and that’s concerning. Well, okay. We’re good? Anybody want to see this?
Police Official: (58:41)
Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. You know it’s not my character not to respond to media requests. I think we were clear that we needed some time and literally we worked around the clock to try to learn. That should be an indication of how much we didn’t know. Going forward, I’ll try to provide as much information that I can. I also have to listen to the attorneys involved in this because they do represent our members on that concern, but if I can ask off, not specific, but other questions you may have, I’ll try to provide those answers to the best of our ability. Thank you.
Speaker 19: (59:33)
[inaudible 00:59:33] you said you didn’t know in advance or until this week about [inaudible 00:59:41] or about the dysfunctions.
Police Official: (59:44)
The attorney … I believe I was notified by our attorney that the Attorney General’s office under the executive order was going to be conducting an investigation. I’m not sure.
Speaker 19: (01:00:01)
What exactly took you by surprise this week [inaudible 00:12:04]?
Police Official: (01:00:06)
Well, the conference and the press conference and the concerns, I didn’t know where the investigation was. I have since learned that it has not been completed, which is confusing to why the mayor said some of the comments that she made and more concerned on the comments from city council on our members. What information are they going on? That’s my concern.
Speaker 19: (01:00:33)
Police Official: (01:00:39)
No, no, I think that follows protocol under that order. And I’m not sure if the requirement is for the police department or the district attorney’s office to notify.
Police Official: (01:00:57)
You know what, Brian? I think I can’t even … It’s a blur from March with the pandemic and the whole bit. I don’t know if it was even in March or I believe it was our attorney that had said that the AG’s would be coming in on the cert or maybe to file the protocol or whatever.
Early on. Not like just in the last-
Police Official: (01:01:18)
Oh, no. Right. What I do know from investigations around the state with the AG’s office, they take considerable amount of time and there’s nothing that’s done overnight. They work kind of in cooperatively and then sometimes separately, but that’s more questions the department probably could answer than I could. I look at it as a good means to show an independence investigation.
WATCH LIVE: Rochester police hold news conference on suffocation death of Daniel Prude
WATCH LIVE: Rochester police hold news conference on suffocation death of Daniel PrudePosted by PBS NewsHour on Friday, September 4, 2020