The family of Daniel Prude is asking a federal court to direct the Rochester Police Department to reform its process for investigating incidents in which officers use force, to implement policies that ensure officers who use unjustified force are disciplined, and to appoint a federal monitor to oversee those reforms.
The requests were outlined in a lawsuit that attorneys for the family filed Tuesday against the city of Rochester. Also named as defendants were the exiting Rochester police chief, La’Ron Singletary, the three officers who restrained Prude until he fell unconscious, and the other four officers who were also on the scene.
Prude died in Strong Memorial Hospital on March 30, a week after his arrest.
The family is also seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.
The lawsuit was not unexpected. Last week, the lawyer for Prude’s estate, Elliot Shields, announced his intention to sue, along with releasing reams of evidence that bolstered his case and touched off nationwide protests.
City officials have acknowledged preemptively reaching out to Shields and other attorneys involved in early August to settle a potential lawsuit. Shields has said that no dollar figures were exchanged, although Rochester Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin has said that the city made a monetary offer.
The complaint accuses three RPD officers of using excessive force by restraining Prude, who was naked and had his hands cuffed behind his back. It alleges that the officers held Prude down under the full weight of their bodies for more than two minutes until he stopped breathing and went into cardiac arrest.
It alleges that Officer Mark Vaughn pushed down on Prude’s head, Officer Troy Taladay pressed his knee across Prude’s back, and Officer Francisco Santiago held Prude’s legs down.
The claim also argues that the other four officers at the scene had a duty to intervene when Prude’s rights were being violated and that they had an opportunity to do so. It further alleges that Singletary and three supervisors failed to properly “supervise, train, and discipline their subordinate employees.”
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the department has a pattern of failing to discipline officers, which “demonstrates the RPD is infected with a culture of racism, and that the city and RPD have failed to address systemic problems of racism and use of excessive force.”
It cites previous instances where city officers were found to have used excessive force and notes that “no RPD officer has been suspended, fired, terminated, or forced to retire in the past ten years as a result of allegations that said officer used excessive force.”
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.