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Rochester police chief, entire command staff retire suddenly following protests over death of Daniel Prude

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iStock/Tero VesalainenBy: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(ROCHESTER, N.Y.) — After days of protests against the Rochester Police Department in light of the death of Daniel Prude, its top officer and his deputy announced Tuesday they are retiring from the force. Along with the police chief, the city’s entire command staff announced it will vacate their roles.

Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary said in a statement that he was honored to serve the city in upstate New York for 20 years and commended his staff. However, he said the protests and criticism of his handling of the investigation into the March 23 incident “are an attempt to destroy my character and integrity.”

“As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character,” he said in a statement. “The members of the Rochester Police Department and the Greater Rochester Community know my reputation and know what I stand for.”

His retirement will be effective Sept. 29, according to Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott. Scott told ABC News as of now there is no blueprint for how the city moves forward following the retirements of the command staff.

Antonio Romanucci, the attorney representing Prude’s children, called Singletary’s departure “an important and necessary step to healing and meaningful reform in the community.”

“Clearly, the conduct of the officers in Mr. Prude’s case was inhumane, and the subsequent cover-up was unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to securing justice for Mr. Prude and to having Rochester leaders do the hard work needed to address issues of systemic racism and training protocols in the police department.”

Mayor Lovely Warren informed the Rochester City Council that in addition to Singletary, the entire command staff announced it would be vacating their roles today. She noted that none of the police leaders were asked to resign.

The police union said the announcement took it by surprise, but laid blame at the foot of the mayor’s office.

“The events that have unfolded today have taken us completely by surprise, as they have everyone else,” the Rochester Police Locust Club said in a statement. “What is clear is that the problems of leadership go directly to the Mayor’s office. Our priority now is on the dedicated men and woman, who despite unprecedented challenges, continue to do a very difficult job.”

“Our members remain focused and committed to serving the citizens of this city, despite the lack of support and leadership that we are witnessing coming from our elected officials in City Hall,” the union added.

The announcement came during a scheduled city council meeting Tuesday afternoon, and Scott said she was totally unaware Singletary would make the announcement he did.

“It was unexpected. I didn’t know that it was going to happen,” Scott said. “I don’t know blindside is the right word. But yeah, right. This was a briefing to talk about how the police handled the protests.”

Deputy Chief Joseph Morabito was among those retiring. He had served on the Rochester Police Department for 34 years.

“It has also been my honor to serve this community through these many years; a community I was born and raised in, and deeply love,” he wrote in a statement.

Cmdr. Fabian Rivera also announced his retirement, while Deputy Chief Mark Simmons and Cmdr. Henry Favor each left the command staff to return to their previous ranks of lieutenant.

Tameshay Prude, Daniel Prude’s sister and administrator of his estate, said in a statement the departures were “a good step,” but reiterated that the entire force needed an overhaul.

Last week, body camera footage was released showing the March 23 incident involving Rochester police officers and Prude, 41. Prude’s brother, Joe, called 911 to get help, saying Daniel was having a mental health emergency.

In the video, officers approached Prude, who was naked, and Prude initially complied with the officers’ orders. Prude was subsequently seen shouting and spitting, which prompted officers to place a spit bag over his head.

The officers are then seen pinning Prude to the ground while the bag is still on his head and he eventually goes lifeless. Prude died a week later.

The news sparked protests throughout the city over the last six days and in some instances, things got heated. Officers have had to use pepper spray and tear gas on the protesters after they said bottles and rocks were thrown at them.

The New York State Attorney General’s Office is investigating the incident and seven Rochester Police Department members have been suspended with pay. The AG’s office said over the weekend that it will empanel a grand jury to decide whether the incident merits criminal charges.

Prude’s death was not made public until the video was released by The Democrat and Chronicle on Sept. 2.

Since the release of the video, advocates and community activists have criticized the police force for keeping Prude’s death and investigation under wraps for months. Warren and Singletary have defended their actions and said that everything they’ve done so far was by the book.

“He didn’t in any way try to cover this up,” Warren told the city council.

ABC News’ Alondra Valle, Chris Donato and Josh Hoyos contributed to this report.

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