RPD Chief Defends Officers' "Restraint" During Recent Protests Sunday In Press Conference With Mayor
by DARIEN LAMEN
(WXIR-Rochester) Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary defended his department's response to ongoing protests over the police killing of Daniel Prude Sunday.
"We have shown restraint," Singletary said after four days of protests in which protesters, journalists, and elected officials have been repeatedly and indiscriminately doused with chemical agents and bruised with pepper balls and other police weapons.
"There are people who come to these protests who want to protest peacefully [but] there are agitators within the crowd who do want to provoke," Singletary said. The Chief claimed to have "credible information" that "outside agitators" were looking to damage the Public Safety Building.
Singletary made the remarks Sunday during a press conference alongside Mayor Lovely Warren and Reverend Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church. The news conference comes amidst growing calls for Singletary and Warren to resign.
"I have spoken with Chief Singletary and we have discussed at length how our police department has responded to the protesters," Warren said Sunday. "The deployment of pepper balls, tear gas, the fireworks, the agitators have escalated these situations. That is the reason why I'm asking you, the citizens of Rochester, to help us."
The Mayor stated that "protesters' message has been heard," before reiterating her support for already existing plans to increase the number of mental health workers in Family Crisis Intervention (FACIT), and to transfer the program from the Police Department to the Department of Recreation and Youth Services.
Warren also went on to defend Singletary's handling of the police killing of Daniel Prude, despite having suggested last week that he misrepresented the circumstances surrounding Prude's death to her back in March.
"I do not believe there's another person more dedicated to changing the culture of policing than La'Ron," Warren said.
City Council plans to investigate what actions city administration took following Prude's death.
Reverend Myra Brown of Spiritus Christi Church said during Sunday's press conference that she approached city officials with a plan to mobilize at least 50 community elders to "be a buffer" between protesters and police for the duration of tonight's protests. Mayor Warren says she plans to attend the convergence.
Organizers with Free the People Roc plan to convene separately on Jefferson Ave, according to a Facebook event.
Members of the media--many of whom say they've been intentionally targeted by police with pepper balls and arrests during the last few nights of protests--grilled the RPD Chief and the Mayor.
Toward the end of the conference, one reporter asked, "If someone calls 9-1-1 tonight with the same scenario with Daniel Prude, what happens? What orders have you given your officers?"
"Well, I think we follow the steps we have been following, same way in Mr. Prude's investigation, [with the] internal, criminal investigation."
"Let me rephrase," the reporter says. "Would it be different from what we saw on March 23rd?"
"As best as possible."
"How would it be different?"
"Well I mean each situation is different [unintelligible] specific for that. What we're trying to do is to move forward and see what we can how we can do it better when officers respond to certain instances so we don't have another situation," Singletary said.
DARIEN LAMEN is news producer/director for WXIR Community Radio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.