Rochester Police Chief Resigns in Wake of Riots

Rochester, New York Police Chief La’Ron Singletary abruptly retired today after days of rioting in the city following the death of 41-year old Chicagoan Daniel Prude while in custody of the Rochester police.

“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities try to destroy my character,” Singletary stated in a media release announcing his resignation.

“The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions I took after being informed of Mr. Prude’s death is not based on facts, and is not what I stand for,” Singletary wrote.

Deputy chiefs Joseph Morabito and Mark Simmons resigned as well.

The three were the entire command staff of the city’s police department.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren had earlier said, “Institutional and structural racism led to Daniel Prude’s death. I won’t deny it. I stand before it, and I call for justice upon it.”

Action has already been taken to suspend the seven officers involved, without pay, and the case is being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

The head of the police officers’ union, Michael Mazzeo, told the San Diego Union Tribune the officers in Rochester were faced with someone with a mental health condition when they encountered Prude. The officers appeared to have responded to the situation as they were trained to do, including the use of the spit sock placed over Mr. Prude’s head, Mazzeo explains.

“Police officers absolutely need more help in dealing with people who are mentally ill or on drugs,” Mazzeo said. “It wasn’t that long ago when New York state mental health facilities were closed and people were put out on the street, and who was the only other agency who was able to deal with them? The police.”

Police officers are expected to handle many of society’s ills beyond typical policing.

“Police officers are doing the jobs no one else will,” attorney Luis Robles told Budget and Tax News.

With the increase in the homeless population, particularly the drug-addicted homeless, along with rising crime rates in so many areas, police officers are stretched thin and tasked with problems beyond their job description.

As the investigation of Prude’s death progressed, the city erupted in protests and violence. In a recent press conference, Mayor Warren described the activity as “righteous anger and heartfelt protests from many residents of our community,” though both the mayor and the city’s police chief expressed concern about outside agitators.

“We do have intelligence that we’ve been receiving that there have been outside agitators that have come to Rochester; as you know, we monitor social media,” Singletary told WROC-TV. “We have arrested people who provided addresses from Alaska, Massachusetts, and other parts of the country.”

Rochester, in upstate New York, is described by Visit Rochester as “one of the best regions for living, working and raising a family.” With a population of just over 200,000 people, it is a relatively small city compared to other recent trouble spots such as New York City (population approximately 8.4 million), Chicago (approximately 2.6 million), and Seattle (750,000). The presence of outside agitators in a small city like Rochester suggests few other communities or suburbs can be confident that they will avoid such disturbances.

During riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police arrested a group from Seattle identified as members of Riot Kitchen, FOX News reports. Authorities were alerted to the out-of-town license plates and investigated.

“The minivan tried to drive away, authorities said. Inside the vehicles, officers found helmets, gas masks, protective vests, illegal fireworks and suspected controlled substances, police said. Nine people were arrested,” FOX reports.

A Riot Kitchen board member acknowledged that the group had been on the way to a D.C. protest when they decided to take the detour to Kenosha.

In Washington, D.C., Mayor Bowser also commented about the residency of those arrested, reports Fox News. While some protesters came from Virginia and Maryland, others came from as far away as Portland and Minneapolis, Bowser stated.

“From Thursday until early this morning, the large majority of arrestees—over 70 percent—are not from the District of Columbia,” told FOX News. “So, they appear to be folks who are coming into our city, our peaceful city, with the intent of destroying property and hurting folks.”

A protester arrested in D.C. was also at Portland and Kenosha riots, writes Jennifer Smith for the Daily Mail. Newsham and Mayor Bowser are looking into the funding of groups travelling to the city.

“We are seeing a shift with who’s involved and the kind of tactics being used,” Bowser told the Daily Mail. “I don’t think anything that we have found can connect any outside protester to a single group or funded [sic] or organization. Though I don’t think it would be a big leap to say that the type of organization and resources that they’re bringing to bear are organized and funded. I don’t think that would be a big leap.”

The man arrested in D.C., Jeremy Vajko, was a Microsoft employee until May when he left his job as a senior engineer and began travelling with Black Lives Matter. He has been on the road with them ever since, writes Smith. The van he drives, registered in the state of Washington, has been in both Portland and Kenosha, evidence suggests.

When rioting erupted in Miami Dade County in May, Mayor Giminez told CBS4 News the violence was orchestrated by professional agitators. Law enforcement in the area reported they were tracking activities of outside agitators through social media.

Portland police discovered individuals from Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, and several of unknown residency, among recent arrestees, reports KEPR news.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr cites numerous reports of outside agitators, writes Andrew Solender for Forbes. Barr said he had reports of protesters from Seattle, Portland, and other places flying into D.C. “for the specific purpose of causing a riot.”

“With the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful and legitimate protests have been hijacked by violent radical elements. Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent, and extremist agenda” Barr said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating who is coordinating riots across the country, reports Katie Pavlich at Townhall.

“Violent agitators not only delay real reform but make our community less safe by keeping law enforcement from responding to other critical calls for service,” U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said in a statement reported by Pavlich.

“There is a secondary consequence to allowing looting,” notes the Chicago Tribune editorial board. “Summer looting contributed to the mass shooting Sunday on Chicago’s Far Southwest Side. The shooters and their target, the now-deceased Devon Welsh, were fighting over the dividing up of looted merchandise.”

Welsch was shot several times, and four others were also hit by gunfire. All of this happened in a pancake restaurant where families were having Sunday breakfast.

“Looting isn’t just about stolen gym shoes or jewelry or people trying to feed their families, as Ariel Atkins, a Chicago Black Lives Matter protester, said last month defending the mass theft. It is criminal activity that can have grave consequences,” the Tribune stated.

“Everyone who wants law and order and everyone who wants to run a business need police to hold the line,” attorney Luis Robles told Budget and Tax News. “People who run a business are no match for those who want to destroy it.”

About Eileen Griffin

Eileen Griffin writes from Richland, Washington.

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

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