Use of force: Did Rochester officers follow protocol the night they encountered Daniel Prude?

National News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Attorneys representing the suspended Rochester police officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death said last week that their clients “did exactly what they were trained to do and they did it flawlessly.”

Attorneys cited training and policies put forth by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice. They say the protocol officers followed was put forth by the DCJS in 2017 and has since been rolled out statewide.

The seven officers involved in the incident back in March were suspended with pay after details of Prude’s death became public on September 2. The seven suspended officers are Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

The training and protocol the attorneys referenced was included in a number of documents provided to the media Thursday. One of which was a training video from the DCJS in which instructors demonstrate a technique known as “segmenting” — which is what responding officers did to restrain Prude back in March, attorneys said.

NYS DCJS training video on “segmenting”

According to a NYS DCJS document from 2017, called Defensive Tactics Instructor Refresher Training:

  1. Segmenting is used when the officers do not wish to utilize a leg anchor for situational reasons.
  2. After completing the takedown, one officers will take a knee on top position.
  3. The second officers will place both his hands down on the subjects head to control the subjects ability to move. The officer should place his hands around the subject’s ear taking care to stay away from the subject’s mouth.
  4. Segmenting allows both officers to be able to disengage quickly if needed.

The segmenting technique was also included in an Rochester Police Department document from this year called Defensive Tactics Training Handout.

What the Attorney General’s office will have to find out in the course of its investigation is if the officers did indeed follow this protocol — as in hands around the ears while segmenting — and if use of force was necessary in this instance.

In a federal civil rights lawsuit, Daniel Prude’s family and the attorneys representing them argue that the applied use of force, in this instance, was unlawful.

NYSDCJS’s Use of Force – Model Policy lays out guidance on use of force, but doesn’t apply universal rules regarding so. The model policy says “The policy is designed to provide guidance to individual agencies as they develop their own use of force policies.”

According to that same policy, factors that may be used in determining the “reasonableness of force” include, but are not limited to:

  1. The severity of the crime or circumstance
  2. The level and immediacy of threat or resistance posed by the suspect
  3. The potential for injury to citizens, officers and suspects
  4. The risk or attempt of the suspect to escape
  5. The knowledge, training, and experience of the officer
  6. Officer/subject considerations such as age, size, relative strength, skill level, injury or exhaustion, and the number of officers or subjects
  7. Other environmental conditions or exigent circumstances

New York state’s model policy on use of force also includes guidance on “Duty to Intervene” which says officers observing unreasonable force should act to prevent it, and report their observations to a supervisor. Attorneys representing the Prude family say that officers Magri, Specksgoor, Ricotta, and Harris failed to intervene while officers Vaughn, Taladay, and Santiago restrained the handcuffed Prude.

Under the state’s guidance, an example of prohibited use of force and the segment includes: “Against persons who are handcuffed or restrained unless it is used to prevent injury, escape, or otherwise overcome active or passive resistance posed by the subject.”

Prude was handcuffed when officers restrained him. Attorneys representing the suspended officers involved in Prude’s death said Thursday that their clients restrained Prude to protect themselves, and to protect Prude himself.

A statement from NCJS services Wednesay said in part:

“The state’s approved defensive tactics training curriculum, which is part of the Basic Course for Police Officers that is required for all municipal police recruits, does not train recruits to use any defensive tactics after handcuffing occurs. These tactics are only taught to be used prior to handcuffing. The curriculum also does not address the use of spit hoods. Use of those items is solely a local agency decision.”

In internal review of the officers’ encounter with Prude, RPD’s Major Crimes Unit concluded: “Based upon the investigation, the officers’ actions and conduct displayed when dealing with Prude appear to be appropriate and consistent with their training.”

In the internal review, officers said Prude was “avoiding custody,” was “assaultive” towards police officers and was “kicking his legs back and forth in an attempt to break loose.”

MORE | WATCH: Footage of encounter between Daniel Prude and Rochester police officers before his death

The Prude family’s attorneys argue that the police account of the encounter is false. They say Prude was compliant with police, despite his mental state. They say he responded to their questions, and followed directions, such as getting on the ground, and putting his hands behind his head.

According to RPD General Order 355, Subject Resistance Report, some instances of force must be reported to the DCJS, including use of a chokehold, or other similar restraint that may hinder breathing or reduce intake of air, and any conduct that resulted in death.

The attorneys say the officers followed their training, the family and the lawsuit says the did not, but, again, ultimately the decision will come down to the attorney general’s office and the interpretation of use of force, and how it was applied in this case.

In late September, Attorney General Letitia James came to Rochester to announce a new policy regarding the release of body camera footage. She concluded that press conference by promising “I’ll be back.”

As of Tuesday morning, officials from the attorney general’s office said there was no update regarding the investigation.

A minute-by-minute timeline of Daniel Prude’s encounter with RPD on March 23, 2020

3:16:08 a.m. — Police arrive and tell Prude to get on the ground.  

3:17:10 a.m. — Officer gets on the radio to ask, “Can I get the rig to Cady and Jeff?”  

3:17:30 a.m. — Officer tells other officer Prude told a tow truck driver he had coronavirus.  

3:19:20 a.m. — Officer puts what appears to be a spit mask over Prude’s head.  

3:20:20 a.m. — Officer tells Prude to stop spitting.  

3:20:30 a.m. — Officer tells Prude, “You’re going to sit” then tells fellow officers, “I got it. I’m already in it.” Officer puts Prude’s head on the ground, holds it there telling him to calm down. Prude makes gurgling sounds.  

3:21:20 a.m. — Officer asks, “Can you get the gurney out, please?”    

3:21:35 a.m. — Officer tells Prude to stop spitting. From here, Prude isn’t talking, some soft whimpering is heard.

3:22:20 a.m. — Prude goes quiet.  

3:22:34 a.m. — Officer asks Prude, “You good, man?”  

3:22:45 a.m. — Prude appears to throw up. Officer asks, “You puking, man?” then says to others, “He’s puking … straight water.” No sound coming from Prude after that.  

3:23:25 a.m. — Officer asks, “Is he still moving his arm?”  

3:23:30 a.m. — Officer says, “It doesn’t even look like he has chest compressions.” Prude is rolled over on his side.  

3:24:20 a.m. — Someone asks, “Does he have a pulse?” Someone responds saying no. EMT says, “Start CPR.”  

3:25:35 a.m. — EMT tells officer, “PCP can cause what we call excited delirium. I guarantee you that’s why he coded. It’s not your guys’ fault. You have to keep yourselves safe.”  

That autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report says Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.

RPD: Defensive Tactics Training Handout (2020)

NYS DCJS: Use of force policy (2020)

Prude vs. Rochester civil lawsuit (2020)

RPD General Order 335: Subject Resistance Report (2020)

RPD General Order 334: Use of deadly physical force (2020)

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light on September 2.

The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report said Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.

Less than one-week Prude’s death became public, Police Chief Singletary announced his retirement — along with several other members of RPD’s command staff.

The following week, Mayor Lovely Warren fired Singletary before his effective retirement date and named Mark Simmons the interim Chief of Police. Simmons has since been replaced by Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

The latest stories regarding Daniel Prude

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