RPD Leadership, Law Department Sought to Block Public Release of Daniel Prude Body Cam Video

(ROCHESTER NY--) "We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers' actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement nationally. That would simply be a false narrative."

These are the words of Mark Simmons, the man who was appointed Monday to succeed La'Ron Singletary as Rochester Police Chief for the next 30 days.

Simmons made the comments in an email to his then-boss Singletary on June 4th, urging him to ask the City Law Department to deny a body cam FOIL request from lawyers for Daniel Prude's family submitted two months earlier.

"I totally agree," Singletary responds.

The revelations are part of a report compiled by Deputy Mayor James Smith at Mayor Lovely Warren's request, including over 300 pages of internal emails and police reports.

An hour after Simmons' June 4th email, the documents show that Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin asked City Attorney Stephanie Prince whether she could "deny/delay" the release of the video.

Prince writes that the state Attorney General's office, which had begun a criminal investigation into Mr. Prude's death, recommends allowing the Prude family lawyer to view the video in the AG’s office.

"This way, the City is not releasing anything pertaining to the case for at least a month (more like 2), and it will not be publicly available," Prince says.

The documents released Monday do not appear to implicate Mayor Lovely Warren in the plan to block public release of body camera footage.

However, in his timeline of events the Deputy Mayor notes that Warren met one-on-one with Chief Singletary over 50 times between March 23rd and August 4th, when Warren has said she viewed the body camera video for the first time.

The documents show that Smith drafted an official letter from Warren to Singletary on August 4th expressing her "outrage" at the "conduct and attitude of Officer Vaughn during this mental hygiene arrest."

In the letter, which was then emailed on August 6th, Warren encourages the Chief to begin an internal disciplinary investigation, even though it runs counter to department protocol to do so while a criminal investigation is in progress.

Mayor Warren would wait another 27 days before commenting publicly on Daniel Prude's killing, following the release of the video footage by Prude's family on September 2.

The supporting documents and timeline from the Deputy Mayor's report can be found at: https://www.cityofrochester.gov/rpdreformrelease91420/