The death of Daniel Prude

EDITORIAL | 3/4/2021, midnight
When we first learned of Daniel Prude’s death last March, the details left us aghast.
Police body cam footage of killing of Daniel Prude in Rochester, NY Rochester Police Department

When we first learned of Daniel Prude’s death last March, the details left us aghast.

How in the world could a naked Black man be a threat? But an image of him on a Rochester police officer’s body camera on the street wearing nothing but handcuffs was startling evidence.

On Tuesday, we were even more stunned but not surprised to hear that none of the officers whose apprehension and conduct stopped Prude’s breathing will face criminal charges.

Add our disappointment to those expressed by State Attorney General Letitia James, and her plan to fight for a more just system. “While I know that the Prude family, the Rochester community, and communities across the country will rightfully be devastated and disappointed, we have to respect this decision,” James said in a statement. “Serious reform is needed, not only at the Rochester Police Department, but to our criminal justice as a whole.”

Daniel Prude with a mesh hood over his head and unable to breathe brings to mind the death of George Floyd, and once again outrage about policies that allow law enforcement officers to use the most brutal forms of subduing a suspect, no matter that person’s mental or physical state.

The grand jury’s decision in this case is just a current instance of police officers not being indicted and subsequently not tried or convicted. We are not about to argue the numbers game here about how many unarmed Black men and women are killed by police officers and are not brought to justice—one is too many! Our concern is just about what happened to Daniel Prude, whose erratic behavior, the police say was the result of ingesting PCP.

Even if his condition was the result of drug intake, does that mean his arrest and apprehension should end in death?

Each incident like this demands full investigation and some rule changes in the grand jury process that is usually dictated by prosecutors and favor police officers. But rectifying this is about as challenging as altering the outcome of systemic racism.

Any change in the so-called system of justice is much too late for those victims of overzealous police enforcement but it’s time to do something in advance of future encounters between unarmed Black Americans and the police.