Rochester Police chief retiring following death of Daniel Prude

Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary resigned Thursday (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. – Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and his entire command staff announced their retirement Tuesday, stunning leadership in City Hall and giving new urgency to the calls for justice after the death of Daniel Prude in March.

Mayor Warren announced the news to Rochester City Council during a scheduled briefing Tuesday.

"As you all know, this has been very challenging times for the city of Rochester," Warren said, "and the chief was not asked to give his resignation because I do believe that he’s given his very best, and with some information that was brought to light today that I had not previously seen before, and that the chief has felt that his career and integrity has been challenged. He has dedicated 20 years to this city and the citizens of Rochester and feels that the events that have happened were not done in a way that, you know, could’ve been handled differently, but he didn’t, in any way, try to cover this up.”

Rochester Police confirmed Tuesday Chief Singletary, Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito, Commander Elena Correia and Commander Fabian Rivera announced their retirements. Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor will return to previously-held lieutenant ranks. Deputy Chief Mark Mura returned to his previously-held rank of captain.

Later Tuesday, Warren confirmed Singletary and the other impacted members of the department will be staying on until the end of the month.

"I want to assure our Rochester communities that the Rochester Police Department will continue to serve and protect our residents and our neighborhoods," Warren said during a brief news conference Tuesday. "...While the timing and tenor of these resignations is difficult, we have faced tough times before. I truly believe that we will get through this."

News of the departures come less than 18 months after Singletary was appointed as the leader of the Rochester Police Department.

Six Days of Turmoil

Last Wednesday, Singletary and Mayor Lovely Warren said the delay in the case being made known to the public stemmed from the State Attorney General’s Office becoming the lead investigator into Prude’s death. Singletary said he called Warren on the morning of March 23 to inform the mayor of the incident and that both a criminal and internal investigation had been ordered.

Yet, during a news conference Thursday, Warren said Singletary had informed her on the 23rd that Prude was unresponsive following an incident and that he could die. A week later, she said she was informed Prude had died from an apparent overdose. She says it wasn’t until August 4 that she saw body camera footage of Prude being detained.

Singletary was not present at the mayor’s Thursday news conference. Warren said she instructed the chief that, going forward, video will be required from any in-custody death within 24 hours. She added that she planned to work with Singletary to rectify the situation.

Many citizens called for the resignation of both Warren and Singletary in the 24 hours following Prude’s death becoming public. Warren apologized to the Prude family and the community Thursday. Singletary has not commented publicly since Wednesday. He appeared briefly at a community gathering Thursday night, where he was confronted by protesters - some of them calling him "the enemy".

In a statement released Tuesday, Singletary said he would "not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character."

Today, after 20 years of dedicated service to the Rochester Police Department and the Rochester Community, I announce my retirement from the Rochester Police Department. For the past two decades, I have served this community with honor, pride, and the highest integrity.
As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character. The events over the past week are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity. The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for. The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for.
I would like to thank the men and women of the Rochester Police Department, as well as the Rochester Community for allowing me the honor of serving as your Chief and fulfilling a lifelong dream. I look forward to continuing to serve our community in my next chapter.

Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito and Commander Fabian Rivera also announced their retirements. Morabito said serving with the department for more than 34 years was his "extreme honor".

Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Commander Henry Favor will return to their previously-held ranks of lieutenant.

A Brief Tenure

Born and raised in the city of Rochester, Singletary graduated from John Marshall High School in the Law and Government Magnet Program in 1998. Two years later, he began working for the Rochester Police Department. At the time he was confirmed as chief, he had served 19 years with the department and held the rank of deputy chief prior to the appointment.

Singletary was announced as chief of the department on April 9, 2019, following the retirement and departure of previous chief Michael Ciminelli. Ciminelli resigned to take a position with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington, D.C. in September 2018.

The timing of Ciminelli's departure also came during a time of scrutiny. He left less than a week after two of his officers - Michael Sippel and Spenser McAvoy - were suspended over allegations they physically assaulted Christopher Pate during a stop in May 2018. Sippel was later convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to three years probation. Pate sued the City of Rochester.

During the process of interviewing for a new police chief, city officials and leaders in the law enforcement community cited Singletary as someone who stood out for his commitment to improving the relationship between police and the community. When announcing Singletary’s appointment, Warren said his work in bridging police-community relations helped win him the job.

"I think both sides have work to do," said Singletary last April. "I think we have made commitment, we have extended the olive branch. I can tell the community right now that community policing, building community/police relations is going to be my mantra going forward.”

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley saw the incoming chief as someone who could lead the office with “respect and dignity."

This is a developing story. 13WHAM will provide updates as they become available.