The mayor of Rochester, New York has promised reforms are coming to the city’s police department following a fifth night of demonstrations over the March death of Daniel Prude, who lost consciousness after police held him down with a hood over his head.
Mayor Lovely Warren announced at a news conference on Sunday that the crisis intervention team and its budget would move from the police department to the city’s department of youth and recreation services.
Ms Warren did not provide specifics, but said the move would be part of a series of reforms planned for “the coming weeks, months and years”.
“We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassion. In that moment we had an opportunity to protect him, to keep him warm, to bring him to safety, to begin the process of healing him and lifting him up,” Ms Warren said.
We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassionRochester mayor Lovely Warren
“We have to own the fact that in the moment we did not do that.”
Police chief La’Ron Singletary said he supports the need for reform in his department and is working with experts and clinicians in getting outpatient services for people with mental health issues that bring them into repeated police contact.
Ms Warren suspended the seven officers involved in Prude’s death last week after his family released police video from the March night when he was restrained on a city street.
The video shows the officers covering Prude’s head with a “spit hood” designed to protect police from bodily fluids, after he complied with being handcuffed, then pressing his face into the pavement for two minutes.
He died a week later after he was taken off life support.
The police union head said the officers were following their training.
Protests have followed each day since the family released the video on Wednesday, sometimes spawning confrontations with demonstrators and the police.
Three officers were treated at hospitals for injuries they suffered when “projectiles and incendiary devices” were hurled at them during Saturday night’s protests, lieutenant Greg Bello of the Rochester police said in a news release. Nine protesters were arrested.
The Democrat and Chronicle reported that some protesters were hit by projectiles as well as thousands marched through the streets of New York’s third-largest city.
No information about injuries to protesters was provided by police.
The marches took place as New York’s attorney general announced Saturday that a grand jury would investigate Prude’s death.
A police internal affairs investigation cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, concluding in April that their “actions and conduct displayed when dealing with Prude appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training.”
The seven officers were suspended on Thursday.
Protesters have called on Ms Warren and Mr Singletary to step down over the delay in releasing details of Prude’s death.
They have also demanded police accountability and legislation to change how authorities respond to mental health emergencies.
The mayor and police chief said on Sunday they had no plans to resign.
Ms Warren did not provide specifics about how the crisis intervention team’s move would change the policing of a person going through a mental health crisis.
But she said the city will double the availability of mental health professionals and work with Rochester’s Commission on Racial and Structural Equity to re-envision the police department and how it responds to mental health crises.
“The chief and I, we love our city. We were born and raised here,” she said.
“We are committed to making the necessary changes to make sure this community moves forward.”