One Step at a Time, Rochester, New York Is Partly Defunding Its Police

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Sep 17, 2020

Rochester, New York’s city council voted unanimously on September 15 to create and allocate $100,000 for an independent investigation into Daniel Prude’s arrest and death, CNN and several other news outlets reported. On top of the investigation, the council also agreed to rescind $16 million for a new police station, Rochester’s City newspaper reported. 

The push by the council came the day after the city’s Democratic Mayor Lovely Warren announced the firing of former Rochester Police Department (RPD) chief La’Ron Singletary and the suspensions of two additional RPD leaders without pay for 30 days. She also called for Prude’s case to be reviewed throughout every level of Rochester’s government and for an investigation into civil rights violations related to his killing by police during a mental health crisis on March 23. 

"What this city, this community is craving is honesty,” city council member Mitch Gruber told the Democrat & Chronicle. “This city right now is craving truth."

As is being reported, some city workers and local advocates believed that Warren, many in her office and even some council members knew about the events that led to Prude’s death before police bodycam video of the incident became public. The council itself then became subject of an independent investigation, which is being led by New York City-based lawyer Andrew Celli. While the city’s Deputy Mayor James P. Smith presented his own annotated timeline as part of Warren’s Singletary firing announcement, the council is reportedly seeking to form its own independent timeline and accountability brief.

 "While we appreciate the mayor’s desire to have the City’s Office of Public Integrity look into this matter, we understand the importance of having a review conducted by a separate branch of government with independent legal counsel," city council president Loretta Scott reportedly said in the council’s statement.

In addition to the $16 million that now won’t go into a new police station, the city is reconsidering what to do with the land purchased last year, at a reported $415,000, for that building.

“There’s many things that it could be as we reimagine policing and violence prevention measures,” council member Mary Lupien told the City. ”It could be for mental health crisis teams, we don’t know, but I’m looking forward to the process of engaging the community on what that space could be.” 

Finally, the council also passed a bill to defund RPD’s Family and Victim Services and instead give the money and the program to the Department of Recreation and Youth Services, CNN reported.