On March 23, Rochester Police Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Talady, and Fransisco Santiago murdered Chicago resident Daniel T. Prude. The legacy of police misconduct is long and has thrived in an environment of aggressive policing without any real accountability. The recent uprisings in Rochester, N.Y., are a legitimate and necessary reaction to militarized, aggressive policing that claims the lives of more of our black and brown babies – more specifically in Rochester, NY our dear brother Daniel Prude. Our condolences and prayers are with his family.
It’s welcome news that the tactics used by the police officers involved and the tragic outcome will be reviewed by New York State Attorney General Letitia James. However, Free The People, an organization building on the legacy of Black liberation movements born out of the Rochester Black Lives Matter, wants much more. The movement, which is focused on investing in our community by defunding the police and abolishing the Prison Industrial Complex, is demanding the resignation of Mayor Lovely Warren.
The outcry for Mayor Warren’s resignation is ironic in that the very people who voted her into office are the very ones loudly calling for her to leave it. These same people had no doubts that their causes would be her cause. However, now, after the death of Daniel Prude, are demanding her resignation as if the major herself were personally responsible!
Since being elected, Mayor Warren has worked tirelessly, fully focusing on her promise of “job creation, fostering safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and improving educational opportunities for Rochester’s residents.”
She has launched several strategic initiatives, including the introduction of a Kiva crowdfunding loan program, a vanpool, support for ride-sharing similar to Uber and Lyft, and a market-driven community co-operative called OWN Rochester.
Additionally, under Warren’s direction, the Rochester Police Department underwent a significant reorganization to implement a neighborhood-based patrol model that converted the patrol structure from two Patrol Divisions (each covering half of the city) to five smaller Patrol Sections. The RPD also implemented a successful body-cam video program during Warren’s first term.
Moreover, she convened an early learning council to help expand Pre-K programs in the city. She also developed a “3 to 3 Initiative” to help set three-year-old children on a path to reading at grade level by third grade. To help achieve these goals, she eliminated fines for children’s books and materials at city libraries.
In December 2016, Warren announced plans to eliminate the city’s red-light cameras. The insurance industry objected, citing its studies which showed that cities that had used red light cameras between 2010 and 2014 had had a 21% drop in the number of fatal red-light running crashes, while cities that had stopped using the cameras had had a 30% increase in such deaths. In response to these studies, Warren justified her decision to remove the cameras by saying, “I concluded the benefits simply don’t justify a further extension… I’m very concerned that too many of these tickets have been issued to those who simply can’t afford them, which is counter-productive to our efforts to reverse our city’s troubling rates of poverty.
Even if the officers involved in the Daniel Prude tragedy are ultimately charged and convicted of crimes and the mayor resigns, those action alone will not deliver the freedom and justice Black communities deserve. The only way we for us to win real liberation is to transform systems that have not served our communities well.
For activists and protestors seeking her resignation, Mayor Warren’s past successes of working alongside Rochester’s chief of police to ensure better training, reforms and an Accountability Board is a fleeting memory. Calling for her to step down is not at all congruent with what we are witnessing with other mayors across the country who are facing the same issues.
Ask yourself: Would the mayor’s resignation change the deep-seated racism that seems to pump through the veins of police officers who are committed to protect and serve, but instead murder and shift blame?
Consider the words of Reverend James C. Simmons, senior pastor of Baber African Methodist Episcopal Church and chairman of Rise Up Rochester:
“Asking for the resignation of Mayor Warren also does not address New York state-mandated techniques, practices, and policies that police officers are trained to use on our people such as the techniques used in the death of Daniel Prude. It does not address the New York State Civil Service Laws and the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Locust Club that protects officers who abuse their power. It does not address the police officers and EMT’s who did not put Daniel Prune in a police car after he was arrested or in the ambulance when it arrived. It does not address Michael Mazzeo, the Rochester Police Locust Club President, who protects police offices at all costs, no matter their crime. Mazzeo himself received a nineteen-count federal indictment in 1991 after other officers testified that Mazzeo and members of the H.I.T. Squad threatened, hit, and assaulted black people with pistols and embezzled funds. The calls for Mayor Warren to step down do not address the deep-seated racism entrenched in our police department and other institutions.”