The New York Attorney General said on Sunday that her office would start releasing a “proactive” video of the police body’s camera when unarmed civilians were killed by officers, a move caused by the strangulation of Daniel Prud in Rochester this year.
Attorney General Leticia James said the new policy, which takes effect immediately and aims to bring more transparency to investigations conducted by her office, will no longer allow local police agencies to determine when to release a video.
“This process has caused confusion, delays and hampered transparency in a system that needs to be as open as possible,”
James said the policy was needed to “avoid the situation that happened” in Rochester, where Prude, 41, died in March after being handcuffed and wearing a hood over his head as he said he had a Covid-19. The disturbing video from the body camera shows the confrontation between several police officers and Prude, who suffered from mental health and drug problems, according to his brother.
Download NBC News application for current news and alerts
In the video, Prude is seen lying on the street, naked, with an officer’s knee pressed to his back. He stopped breathing and was removed from the life support system a week later.
The video was released only on September 4, long after his family requested it and after police commanders called on city authorities to deny them access. Documents released last week show that in early June, Deputy Chief Mark Simmons apparently referred to protests over the murders of George Floyd, Breona Taylor and others, saying there could be a “forced backlash” if the video with Prude’s death will be released in the “current climate.”
“We certainly don’t want people to misinterpret officers’ actions and link the incident to the recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement at the national level,” Simmons wrote in an email to then-Chief La’Ron Singletari.
Seven police officers were suspended on September 3 for Prude’s death, and the department’s command staff announced their retirement on September 8, but Mayor Lovely Warren fired Singletari before retiring. She said an initial look at the way authorities handled the incident showed that “we have a widespread problem” in the department.
“This shows that Mr Prude’s death has not been taken as seriously as it should have been by those who have dealt with the case throughout the city government and at every level,” she said.
James announced this month that she had pressed a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death. She declined to discuss the investigation on Sunday.