On March 23, last year, police officers in Rochester, New York, confronted Daniel Prude after his brother had called them out of concern for Prude’s mental health and general wellbeing. Prude had been walking naked through the streets and rambling incoherently—but Prude complied with officers’ instructions. Police told him to get on the ground and put his hands behind his back—he did. Prude was clearly agitated and did a lot of shouting at police officers and rambling to himself. He spit on occasion during his detainment, so the cops put a white “spit hood” over his head. Prude demanded and later begged them to remove it.
Not only did officers refuse to remove the hood, but, as the Associated Press reports, “the officers slam Prude’s head into the street. One officer, who is white, holds his head down against the pavement with both hands, saying ‘calm down’ and ‘stop spitting.’ Another officer places a knee on his back.” Officers can be seen and heard on video mocking and laughing at Prude as he struggled and even after he went limp. Prude laid on the ground motionless for some time before paramedics performed CPR at the scene and he was taken to the hospital and put on life support. He died a week later. On Friday, the former police chief who was fired after the incident told reporters that officers did nothing wrong that day.
From NBC News:
La’Ron Singletary, who was fired by the mayor after the video’s public release, answered questions Friday in a livestreamed, hourslong deposition about the city’s handling of the case. The city council’s fact-finding review is separate from an ongoing grand jury investigation into Prude’s death.
Singletary said he spoke twice to Mayor Lovely Warren on March 23 and by then, he had watched some of the body camera footage from the scene, according to the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester.
“It appeared that there was nothing egregious at that point in time,” Singletary said he told Warren. “I explained to the mayor that we were going to be doing an investigation. I told the mayor there were no strikes, there were no punches with regard to the video.”
Singletary illustrates the reason Black people don’t buy the “only a few bad apples” narrative. Imagine needing to see physical “strikes” and “punches” in order to recognize anything “egregious” in police conduct. It’s almost as if the reason cops routinely deny that they engaged in excessive use of force is that, in their minds, the bar for what constitutes police brutality is so damn low.
But Singletary also represents America in its traditional form. The same conservative America that thinks it fucking matters that George Floyd was a drug addict with a criminal history, will back cops like the former chief because to them something like addiction—a disease that can literally happen to anyone—makes a person expendable.
A medical examiner found that Prude’s death was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” But that wouldn’t matter to many because according to AP, “The report lists excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine, or PCP, as contributing factors.” That’s all “back the blue” America needs to know in order to agree with Singletary that the cops—members of the same police department that pepper-sprayed a panicked 9-year-old Black girl—did nothing egregious.
According to NBC, the city of Rochester released a statement Friday saying Singletary “downplayed what occurred from the very beginning through today, and believes that neither he nor anyone in the Rochester Police Department, did anything wrong.”
Well, of course he did—they always do.