Nearly six months after a Black man experiencing a mental health crisis was asphyxiated while in police custody, the public has learned of his death. Daniel Prude stopped breathing on the cold, wet pavement as he was naked and restrained by officers laughing at him. Mr. Prude’s humanity did not matter to those entrusted with his safety.
This horrifying incident shows why we need to rethink what we ask of police. Officers should not have to step into the gaps of our mental health system. Time and again, we see these calls end in tragedy: Lawrence Rogers, Shawn Dukes, Hayden Blackman, Daniel Prude. We must invest in housing, social services, mental health, education and jobs — the kind of investments that will keep us safer and prevent these crises.
We also learned today that our leaders deliberately kept this tragedy secret — and lied to us about why. Mayor Lovely Warren said the city could not tell the public about this incident because of an executive order from the governor mandating the State Attorney General investigate such cases. Executive Order 147 has no prohibition on public disclosure. The intent of the order is to foster transparency, not the other way around. In fact, Rochester police have publicly addressed shooting deaths of civilians since the order was issued in 2015.
To make matters worse, officers briefly detained the activists who exposed this tragedy and resulting corruption as they tried to attend the mayor’s press conference. One officer told an activist she was arrested for “being an idiot.”
I look forward to the State Attorney General’s findings. In the meantime, we must provide resources to our mental health system. We must enact policies that ensure the community is told whenever a person dies in police custody, because today has shown we cannot trust our leaders to be transparent. We must demand citizens are treated with respect and kindness.
Black Lives Matter.