Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the city was doubling its availability of mental health professionals while police review its policies in response to the outrage over the killing of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after officers violently detained him while he was having a mental health emergency.
Warren announced the changes at a press conference on Sunday, where she called for peace on the streets.
Warren declined to step down as mayor, as protesters have urged her to do, and doubled down on her support for Rochester police chief La’Ron Singletary, who also faces calls for resignation.
“For everything that we’ve seen this year, it is clear to me that there is more work to be done, and I am committed to doing what’s necessary,” Warren said. “And I know the chief is committed to doing what’s necessary, to better serve our citizens and our community. That was the job I was elected to do, that was the job that he took an oath to serve.”
Warren also announced that the city’s Racial and Structural Equity (RASE) commission will be working with the police department to change the way police respond to calls dealing with mental health issues.
Prude, 41, died on March 30 though his violent encounter with police officers didn’t catch the attention of the public until last week when his family released footage from a police body camera video.
Prude was acting erratically and running on the streets naked, according to his brother, who called police for help. As seen in body camera video, a group of officers approached Prude, who complied with their requests to lay face-down on the ground and put his hands behind his back.
The officers placed a “spit hood” over his head, which is designed to protect officers from saliva, and then shoved his head to the ground. During the encounter, one officer placed his knee on Prude’s back while another officer held his head down with two hands.
At one point, an officer asks if Prude is throwing up.
Prude died seven days later after being taken off life support. A medical examiner ruled his death a homicide and said he died of “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”
The report also noted that excited delirium and acute intoxication by phencyclidine (PCP) were contributing factors.
The release of the footage of Prude’s encounter with police prompted days of protests in Rochester, attracting residents and local politicians, as well as protesters from out-of-state.
Prude’s death adds to the ongoing turmoil in cities across the country as protesters call for the end of racial injustice and police brutality against Black people, in light of the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, as well as the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
Local mental health professionals held a peaceful protest on Sunday morning, urging city officials to send a mental health task force on police calls involving mental illness or substance abuse.
Other protests in the city have been more contentious as protesters, including some local politicians and some people with shields, clashed with police.
Police estimated that 1,500 people attended a protest march in downtown Rochester on Saturday night.
Nine people were arrested and three officers were injured “as a result of projectiles and incendiary devices which were launched against them” on Saturday, Lt. Greg Bello said in a statement, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
The protest continued into Sunday night, with protesters reaching the city’s Public Safety Building around 9:30 p.m. EDT, police said.
In response to the unrest, New York’s attorney general moved to form a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death on Saturday. All seven of the police officers involved in Prude’s arrest have been suspended.