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RPD determines one officer in the Daniel Prude case faces internal dept. charges

Daniel Prude was 41 when he died March 30, 2020.

Only one of the seven Rochester Police officers who had been suspended after the death of Daniel Prude in March 2020 will face the possibility of disciplinary action after an internal investigation by the Rochester Police Department.

The announcement was exactly 18 months to the day of Prude’s death. That’s no coincidence, according to New York Civil Service Law 75,  that’s the last possible day to legally begin "a removal or disciplinary proceeding." The Rochester’s Police Locust Club would not comment but did tweet that this result has been known since “last April.”

"Ask Herriott to stand next to us and answer questions," the tweet said. "Ask her why she had the results since last April. Ask why she repeatedly said she would make the decision - now it is the conflict attorney’s decision? Ask her why she will lie for a corrupt mayor!"

In a brief statement issued by department Thursday, the police department’s conflict counsel determined "potential grounds for legal recourse" against officer Mark Vaughn.

RPD served Vaughn with departmental charges, and they did not initially reveal what types of charges were filed or what possible disciplinary action he might face.

But later on Friday, RPD said that Vaughn is charged with unnecessary and/or excessive force and discourteous/unprofessional conduct.

RPD said that it fully supports Vaughn’s right to due process and to defend himself against the charges. A formal hearing will be scheduled in the future.

A grand jury empaneled as part of the New York State Attorney General’s investigation declined to indict any of the seven officers earlier this year.

Prude died after he was pinned to the pavement by police while he was having a mental health crisis. He suffocated and died a week later.

The statement released by RPD said the department remains committed to reform efforts and that several steps were taken over the last 17 months, including launching a Crisis Intervention Team, new officer training programs and some revised officer policies on the use of force.

Mayor Lovely Warren's statement mentioned the same reforms and that the community has suffered greatly because of the Prude case. She said she hopes the reforms ensure "that, going forward, we always respond to those in need with compassion and humanity.”

Rochester Police Accountability Board Executive Director Conor Dwyer Reynolds was not surprised by the result but was disappointed by the lack of detail and transparency in the department's statement. 

“The announcement doesn’t tell us what the charges are, it doesn’t explain why it took the officer more than a year to file them, and it does explain why the charges are being filed against one officer. And it doesn’t explain why the conflict council is making the decision rather than the chief of police," continued Dwyer Reynolds. "We’re left with more questions than answers and that’s why again, that’s what this community has been used to for the last few years and that’s unacceptable.” 

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.