ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A grand jury will not seek charges against officers shown on body camera video holding Daniel Prude down naked and handcuffed on a city street last winter until he stopped breathing.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the decision Tuesday. She added that many will be “rightfully” disappointed, but said they must respect the decision.
“Daniel Prude was in the throes of a mental health crisis and what he needed was compassion, care, and help from trained professionals. Tragically, he received none of those things,” said James. “We concluded that there was sufficient evidence surrounding Mr. Prude’s death to warrant presenting the case to a grand jury, and we presented the most comprehensive case possible. While I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community, and communities across the country will rightfully be devastated and disappointed, we have to respect this decision.”
The 41-year-old Black man’s death last March sparked nightly protests in Rochester, New York, after the video was released nearly six months later.
The video made public on Sept. 4 shows Prude handcuffed and naked with a spit hood over his head as an officer pushes his face against the ground. Lawyers for the seven police officers suspended over Prude’s death have said they were strictly following their training.
The county medical examiner listed the manner of death as a homicide.
While the grand jury voted not to indict any officers, James says “serious concerns” remain regarding the actions of the Rochester Police Department.
“The current laws on deadly force have created a system that utterly and abjectly failed Mr. Prude and so many others before him. Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department, but to our criminal justice system as a whole,” said James. “I will be pursuing a multifaceted approach to address the very issues that have prevented us from holding officers accountable when they improperly use deadly force.”
The AG has issued a number of recommendations to address said concerns, specifically when handling mental health crises:
1. James says officers, dispatchers and EMS personnel must be trained to recognize the symptoms of excited delirium syndrome and to respond to it as a serious medical emergency.
2. She says all communities should assess models for responding to crisis situations that minimize or eliminate police responses to mental health calls whenever possible.
3. The AG believe New York should mandate de-escalation training for all officers, and police agencies should reflect a commitment to de-escalation in their use of force policies.
4. She says the City of Rochester should adopt a body worn camera release policy regarding critical incidents.
5. And lastly, James says law enforcement agencies should explore the use of spit sock alternatives.