Seven Police officers have received suspension over the death of an unarmed black man who suffered suffocation under arrest. Daniel Prude who had mental health issue died after being restrained via “spit hood”, which is meant to protect law enforcement from detainees’ saliva. Announcing the suspension of the policemen, Rochester’s mayor, Lovely Warren said, Prude was the victim of systemic racism prevailing in the country.
Daniel Prude, 41 died two months before the killing of George Floyd which stoked national and international protests against the deep-rooted racism and police brutality in United States. The black man’s arrest who died in March bored similar details to that of Floyd’s as both were pinned down to the ground by police. The move to suspend the seven officers is the first disciplinary action since the death of Rochester man of asphyxiation. Contract rules however, still make the suspended officers entitled to receive their regular paychecks.
The lady Mayor of the city in a news conference on Thursday said: “I am suspending the officers in question today against council’s advice, and I urge the attorney general to complete her investigation.”
“Daniel Prude was failed by our police department, our mental healthcare system, our society and he was failed by me,” she continued.
The Mayor also expressed his dissatisfaction over the information issued by the police chief La’Ron Singletary until the beginning of last month. The details of the incident surfaced on Wednesday after the police body camera video was released through a public records request. Warren said what he the evidence shown in the arrest footage was “entirely different” from the version of story narrated by the police chief according to which the black man died of a drug overdose.
She further said that she was “deeply, personally and professionally disappointed” in Chief Singletary but stopped short of taking an action against the city police chief. Chief Singletary denied the charge on Wednesday that his department was trying to brush the details under the carpet.
“This is not a cover-up,” he said, according to the New York Times. “Our Job is to try to get some sort of medical intervention, and that’s exactly what happened that night,” he added.
New York attorney General Letitia James’ office took the case in April. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for the case to be concluded “as expeditiously as possible”.
Daniel Prude’s Death
Mr. Prude’s brother, Joe has said he contacted police on March 23, 2020 as Daniel was behaving abnormally under the acute mental health disorder. When the cops arrived, he had been running naked through the streets in a light snow. Police body camera recording provided to the family shows Prude lying on the ground as officers try to arrest him. He was seen complying with the officers immediately. While sitting on the road, he all of a sudden becomes agitated demanding money or a gun from the police who restrained him. He swears at them as the approached him and spits repeatedly on the ground but does not appear to resist physically in the video.
An officer says that, Prude told them he has COVID-19 and that’s when they had to put spit hood on his mouth. One officer can be seen pinning him down with both hands on his head as he ordered him “stop spitting”. The black man then goes quite and stopped the movement while the police note the offender is feeling cold.
Paramedics are called and the Prude was taken to hospital in an ambulance. His family took him off life support a week later on March 30, 2020. The Monroe County medical examiner in the post-mortem examination ruled that the death of the African American was a homicide caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint”. The autopsy reported also noted that “excited delirium” and acute intoxication by phencyclidine or the drug PCP as the causes that contributed to the death of black man.
The use of spit hoods by the police has been criticized for causing distress and humiliation to the detainees. It can also cause panic and makes it harder to assess that the person under arrest is breathing normally or not. In recent years, the use of the mesh fabric hoods came under scrutiny in United States and other countries for contributing as a factor to the deaths of prisoners under custody.