Daniel Prude Hearing – January 23, 2021, 11 am Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Daniel Prude
- Rapporteur Horace Campbell
- Commissioner Prof. Rashida Manjoo
- Commissioner Mr. Bert Samuels
- Mr. Joseph Prude, brother of Daniel Prude
- Donald Thompson, attorney for the Prude family
Rashida Manjoo 00:05
Good morning so you don’t feel you’re talking into a wall.
Horace Campbell 00:09
I wanted you to have enough time to have a glass of water or a cup of tea. So good morning, Today is January 23. And it is 11:00, time in the morning, Eastern Time. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of unjustified killings and maimings of Black individuals by police officers in the United States before an international panel of rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Daniel Prude. My name is Horace Campbell, and I’m the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over this hearing today is Professor Commissioner Rashida Manjoo of South Africa and Commissioner Bert Samuels of Jamaica. The witnesses for this hearing are attorney Donald Thompson and Joseph Prude. Commissioners Rashida Manjoo and Bert Samuels. I’m sorry, there will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify followed by a period of questions from the commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark and at the 45 minute mark, please excuse my interruptions. Commissioners, Rashida Manjoo and Bert Samuels, I know present to you the first witness, Attorney Donald Thompson. Please confirm your name?
Donald Thompson 02:29
Yes, it, It’s Donald Thompson. Thank you.
Horace Campbell 02:32
I’m sorry. Sorry. I’m sorry. Attorney Donald Thompson, please confirm your name.
Donald Thompson 02:38
Yes. It’s Donald Thompson.
Horace Campbell 02:41
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Donald Thompson 02:50
Yes, I do.
Horace Campbell 02:51
You may begin.
Donald Thompson 02:53
Thank you. I’d like to thank you, first of all, for inviting us to speak this morning. I’d like to talk about the Daniel Prude case in two parts, basically. First, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about what happened. And after that, I would like to spend a good deal of time talking about the official response to what happened. And I think you’ll see as we go through this process, many parallels with the case that was discussed by Mr. Vaccaro, just in the last segment. We just for a bit of background, are in upstate New York and Rochester. He’s in New York City. But I think you’ll see very many of the same issues present here in the Daniel Prude case. Let’s talk about first of all, what happened. Mr. Prude was residing with his sister in the city of Chicago. He was experiencing some unusual and concerning to his sister mental health issues. She contacted Mr. Prude’s brother, Joseph Prude, who is with us this morning, and who is prepared to give a victim statement at the end of the presentation, to ask for advice about what should be done. They decided together that it would be best for Daniel Prude who is Joe’s younger brother to come to Rochester so that Joe could care for him, figure out what was going on, give him appropriate treatment or counseling.
So Daniel Prude’s sister have put him on a train from Chicago to Rochester. Unfortunately, well on the train ride he experienced some mental health events and was asked to leave the train in Buffalo. So about an hour away from Rochester Joseph Prude got in the car and went and picked up Daniel at the train station. At which point everything seemed to be fine, they drove back to Rochester, they, they went to Joseph’s house, they spent some time together. And Daniel then continued to have some mental health issues that were obvious to Joseph, nothing that he’d seen before from Daniel, but very concerning. He was worried he was trying to figure out what to do. He then parted company, just went into a different room, for a few minutes from Daniel. And Daniel then left the home. He had been talking about been talking about God, he’d been talking about the devil trying to get out, and he’d been talking about some other concerning issues. And as soon as Joe basically took his eyes off him, Daniel ran, ran from the house. Now it’s a cold March night in Rochester, it was sort of raining, snowing, snow on the ground, it was wet. And it as soon as Joseph figured out that Daniel had left the residence under the circumstances that he had to try to address the situation. And he he called 911, our emergency response number to get some assistance because unlike in New York City, where there’s this basic response team, or some other option for dealing with people who are in mental crisis in Rochester, we had nothing other than 911. And of course, when you call 911, the police respond. So Joe’s called 911, and let them know what was going on with his brother. In the meantime, Daniel was running through the streets of Rochester, basically, disrobing. As he was doing so he had an interaction with a business where he broke a picture window on the front of the business. And he had interaction with a couple of civilians, who also called 911. Now, by the time he he encountered those civilians, he was completely naked. He removed all his clothing, he no shoes on, and he was basically running down the middle of the road on this freezing really, March, early morning, late evening, early morning hours.
And he then is encountered in that situation by police. They respond to the area where, you know, he was last seen, they, they, they troll for a little bit, they they relatively quickly encounter him. Still in the middle of the road, we’re running or walking down the middle of the road, calling out sort of nonsense words, things that don’t make any sense. And they then very quickly, are able to subdue him, compliant with their requests. He’s handcuffed behind his back. He is seated on the pavement in the middle of the road as directed by officers, and I think this would probably be a good time for us to take a couple of minutes and view the police video the body worn camera video of the attempted arrest of Mr. Prude, so if you could play that now.
Video audio 09:21
Donald Thompson 11:33
All right, thank you. So as you can see from the video, Mr. Prude was completely subdued. See, handcuffed, his back in the middle of the road and, like the case that Mr. Vaccaro spoke about, there was no reason why he had to die. It was based upon the impatience of the police. Basically, Mr. Prude died because he wouldn’t shut up. He kept yelling things at officers, it didn’t make any sense. And is agitated them there. Because why? Because they’re not trained to deal with this situation. They don’t have the personality type to deal with the situation. They’re incapable of dealing with the situation. So you saw the police aggression toward Mr. Prude. Well, completely subdued. And after he is seated on the pavement. What you know, I don’t know if you can see it very clearly from that video. But what actually happens is he was after, he would not be quiet. He’s rolled over by police with the spit sock over his head, on to his chest. Calling out the whole time. There’s one officer with his knee on Mr. Prude’s back, another officer is holding his legs. Officer is doing basically a triangle push up on the side of Mr. Prude’s head. So he’s completely immobilized, and his chest is compressed to the point where he cannot breathe. He then had, I don’t know if it’s a heart attack, but his heart stops there at the scene. The thing you don’t see is there was a response by medical personnel EMTs which is remarkably callous.
They are clearly on the same team with the police. They’re explaining to the police why it’s not their fault that Mr. Prude’s heart stopped, that they are diagnosing him with excited delirium, which is a nonsense thing, and that this was the cause of the incident. Prude was then eventually transported by ambulance to the hospital, they attempted to do chest compressions at the scene, they failed to basically unhandcuff him from behind his back, which limited the chest compressions. He’s transported to the hospital, he was able to maintain a pulse and a heartbeat until he was at the hospital, basically, but was found at that point to be brain dead. And within about 48 hours, the family was given a choice of pulling the plug and ultimately they did, as there was no hope for recovery, Prude having lost his brain for too long. So this happened March 30 of 2020. Thereafter, there was no official response. There was no disclosure to the public and there was no disclosure to the family, until we had obtained the body worn camera video and the other information relating to the police response. And we released it publicly in September. And when that happened, that wound up opening the floodgates as to what had taken place with respect to the police response. The The first thing that happened was, there was a an aggressive disagreement between City Hall and the brass of the Rochester police department, the police chief wound up getting fired by the mayor, because the contention was that he had not transmitted the information to her about this circumstance. There’s currently an exploration of that by city council, they’ve hired independent counsel to determine what in fact was true concerning what the mayor knew and when she knew it.
The Rochester Police Department investigation, which we learned about after the body worn camera video was released, had already been conducted, had determined that there was no inappropriate action on the part of the police officers to all protocols established by the Rochester police department had been followed, and that there was no reason for any internal discipline by the police. After the videos were released, and even after that, thankfully, in Rochester, we have a very active civil rights protest community. We had a series of civil rights protests over over weeks and weeks and weeks. You saw a little clip of of one or two of those in the in the video. The Attorney General’s Office became involved. There is now an executive order in New York state that requires in police related deaths, the Attorney General’s office, not the local district attorney’s office investigate to determine whether there was inappropriate conduct or criminal activity on the part of police. That investigation in Mr. Prude’s case is ongoing. The Attorney General’s Office has been presenting evidence to a grand jury, been no result as of yet with respect to that presentation. The other thing that happened very quickly, was a very aggressive and very antagonistic response by police union. We here as in New York City have a very strong police union, which rather than bargaining for, you know, vacation days and pay raises and things like that is primarily focused on avoiding responsibility of individual police officers and what, what turned out to be the case in the the the theme of avoiding responsibility is these videos.
Body worn camera videos and the other evidence that had been obtained with respect to the response in Daniel Prude’s case had within two to three days, been forwarded to the police union. And had not been forwarded to the family, had not been disclosed to attorneys for the family. We eventually, the way we got the videos, we filed Freedom of Information law requests with the city, which they denied. We appealed. We had to argue again, we filed another request, they denied, we appealed. And finally, through those FOILs [Freedom of Information Law requests], and through the auspices of the attorney general’s office, not the local authorities, we were able to view the videos of what really happened to Mr. prude never released by the city. Frankly, I think that they were of a mind that, you know, if they just swept this under the rug, it would probably go away. That didn’t happen. Let’s talk for a second about the protests that followed. The city authorities and the Rochester Police Department, even after the release of the videos, did what they could do or what they thought they could do to try to sweep this under the rug. And you know, say well, move along, nothing to see here. Let’s just continue life as usual.
Well, you know, our local civil rights protest groups, who, as I said, are very active. We were not – any of that. We had an encampment at one point outside of the hall for a number of days. We had protests at night. We had a police response that was exponentially beyond anything relating to a peaceful protest. We had protesters who were struck in the face with fired tear gas canisters. We had some 6000 rubber bullets fired at peaceful protesters. We had instances were protesters were trapped on a bridge by police and sniped at with rubber bullets. We had police officers acting, and we have other videos of this as well, acting as antagonists toward protesters to try to provoke physical violence or confrontations. They were of a very defensive stance, very offensive stance, you’ll see, I think in a couple of little shots in that video clip, you know, the police officers are out there and riot gear, riot shields, with new all kinds of force to address, see, largely peaceful protesters. You saw in the frontlines, the protesters in one part of the clip with umbrellas, a very ingenious on their part, because police officers were firing at them. And they use the umbrellas to deflect tear gas canisters, pepper balls and rubber bullets. So in in regard to the police response, to show how completely incapable they are of objectively examining their own conduct and addressing it, we now in addition to you know, everything else that’s going on, represent roughly I’ve lost count, actually, but it’s roughly 100 protesters who suffered fairly significant injuries from the police as a result of the police response. And by the way, they brought in assistance, police agencies from across New York State to to assist with this response. they, they they had people from as far away as Watertown, Lake Placid, State Police, US federal marshals, they would take people and arrest them and have them spirited away to an unknown location where they could not have contact with counsel, every kind of aggressive response that you could, you could really imagine.
So one of the things that’s happened now, and it just got named a couple of days ago, actually is, Rochester is instituted a person in crisis team to respond in circumstances like this largely because of this case, in circumstances like this, where a police response is really not appropriate. And, and here, we did not have the resources that New York City has, but we did have a forensic mental health unit and a mental health crisis team. Unfortunately, here, the person who headed up the mental health crisis team who has since been fired, had conveyed private medical records concerning Mr. Prude directly to the police department, the police brass, so that they could construct their response and sort of circle the wagons which is it’s probably something that that went on all the time, but we didn’t know of it until this case, when we got the disclosure of about the police response post-Mr. Prude’s death. The other thing that happened with respect to the police response, and Mr. Vaccaro mentioned this sort of thing in his presentation, was that Immediately tried to paint Mr. Prude as at fault for his own circumstances. There’s a particular police report by one of the officers actually, I think it’s the guy who was doing the triangle push up on Mr. Prude’s head, who characterized Mr. Prude in the police report, as a suspect, a suspect for what, you know, he was suspected of being a victim of police abuse at that point, but he was not a suspect with regard to any other investigation, or any other criminal activity.
So they tried to basically flip the script to make it look as though you know, Mr Prude was a violent fellow, who, you know, had nothing to complain about with respect to the police treatment, they also focused on this excited delirium. From the very first moments when the EMTs went out, or were at the scene until their public responses after the videos were released. Now excited delirium, which it is a diagnosis, if you will, that was created out of whole cloth by Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist, some 15, 20 years ago, he has since disavowed the concept of excited delirium, that this, is just, it’s nonsense. He made it up without any testing without any basis in scientific fact. But they use this excited delirium as a justification for the police response, but you, you saw the video, you saw how he was, Mr. Prude was already restrained, how he was physically compliant with each of the officers requests. And the officers just weren’t trained to handle this type of thing. I mean, I think, you know, the, in a traditional police officer training, what are they taught? Well, they’re taught that it’s most important for us to get home for dinner with our families, you know, and if anybody stands in the way of that, you know, we have the means to exercise the force necessary to make sure we get home for dinner. So, you know, it’s a lot of in the traditional police setting, us versus them. And it’s not us versus them. When the them here, here, Mr. Prude, is experiencing a mental health crisis, and is not complying with every one of the officers directions to which the officers take offense, which results in an aggressive response. Same thing with the protests afterwards, which were very good example of officers unable to brook any criticism whatsoever concerning their activities or their response. And Rochester, you should know, is a city that has a serious problem with racism. We have one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. We have a very large, underprivileged poor community, we are still tremendously segregated, by way of city versus suburb.
I think you can see, in many of these circumstances, Mr. Prude’s case included a response based in part on either extrinsic, or internal racism. If you if you think back to that video, you know, just imagine, if you will, what would have taken place, if the man on the ground was white? And if the men standing around him were black? Would we have the same result? We absolutely would not. And would we have the same cover up? No, we would not. So, you know, the, the failure to address that by our city administration, who, by the way, is almost uniformly black or minority, is not not solely racism, but it’s, it’s relating to the power structure, those with power versus those without. The other problem that we have in Rochester is we have had, up until now, really until the last year or two, we’ve had a vacuum In attorneys who will bring civil rights claims against the police department or the city in circumstances like this, so there’s been very little accountability, certainly no self accountability on the part of protocol, conduct or protocols were followed.
So, I don’t know if somebody had a question there. I might have talked over the top of somebody.
Horace Campbell 30:32
We passed this 30 minute point. Okay.
Donald Thompson 30:41
So, you know, one of the one of the things that continues to be ongoing here, in addition to the criminal investigation by the attorney general’s office, relative to the police officers who were involved, there, there’s a civil action by Mr. Prude’s estate, who attempt to also ensure that all of the information comes out that there be accountability here for the officers actions. There is the ongoing city council investigation concerning the city hall and police cover up. And we have here by the way, in Rochester, a citizens review board that was initially put into place after many years attempting to, to put in place some kind of police accountability board staffed by civilians, which has been vociferously opposed by the local police union. Eventually, you know, we were able to pass the local legislation necessary for a police accountability board. Immediately, the police union brought an action in Supreme Court to limit the authority and the ability and the budget of the police accountability board and that litigation is ongoing. So the police accountability board, although in place, at the moment, just recently, within the last six months, has been effectively hobbled by the litigation initiated by the police union.
So I mean, one of the questions or one of the topics discussed with Mr. Vaccaro was the power and the authority of police unions. And, you know, this is one of my, my particular pet peeves, I think things are not going to get better, change is not going to be possible until the police unions are limited in their authority to defend the actions of individual officers, particularly in regard to cases like this, where there is a criminal investigation into the actions of those officers. So you know, that I think it’s an ongoing structural problem. In no other case, does the union exercise that type of authority, or that type of of, of really cover for police unions. I’ll second the comments by Mr. Vaccaro concerning investigations that are done internally, where police officers are entitled to union representatives who, you know, in that circumstance will offer their own testimony or become very aggressive in the defense of police officers where the idea is simply to flesh out the facts, determine what happened. They will act as the first and most aggressive representative of the police officers.
You know, the other thing here, I think, structurally that needs to be done and has not been done even after all of the protests and after all of the videos that were released concerning Mr. Prude’s case, is this, this internalized structural racism that we have in Rochester, which is just intransigent. It’s, it’s something that is just part of the fabric of our community. And until it’s acknowledged for one thing, which it it has not been, it cannot be addressed and, and ameliorated or another thing. And you know that I’m hopeful that as we continue to go through the litigation, the various litigations concerning Mr. Prude’s case and the protests that followed, and the objections to the official response, attempting to basically sweep everything under the rug, that there will be that kind of acknowledgement, and there can be that type of accountability, but I haven’t seen it yet. And, you know, the, the parties involved have been more interested to this point in defending their own positions, and explaining why whatever they did wasn’t wrong. But we have to get beyond that. And I’m hopeful that some of these investigations will lead to reports that will allow for systemic change. The – we have, you know, trouble in city hall as well. The mayor is up for reelection next year, and is currently a defendant in her own criminal prosecution with respect to fraudulent election practices. So we, we need some change. And it’s unfortunate that a circumstance like this has to be the catalyst for that kind of change.
But hopefully, you know, if nothing else, it will be hopefully, if nothing else, the person in crisis team that’s been put in place now will result in people like Joseph Prude, never having to be placed in the position that Mr. Prude was placed in to call police who were not trained or equipped to respond to his brother’s circumstance. Because help was needed, and there was no one else to call. He did the best that he could. But our resources were limited in such a way that the response here, there was no chance that there was going to be an appropriate response to Mr. Prude’s circumstances other than happenstance, had we had an officer with some appropriate outlook or appropriate training responding. Perhaps things could have been different. But, but that training is not offered by and it’s not, it’s not mandated. It’s not, it’s certainly not taken to heart in the Rochester police force, that that’s not their culture. So with any, with any luck, this will result in some modifications to the culture of the Rochester police department, the culture of the Rochester City authorities concerning acknowledging issues like this rather than trying to avoid or deny or minimize issues like this, like I echo again, what Mr. Vaccaro had said in Shereese’s case. In this case, there was no reason why Mr. Prude had to die. It was solely based upon the impatience of police officers. What again, if you think back to the video, what would have happened had each of those police officers instead of confronting Mr. Prude and physically engaging him, what would have happened if they all just took a step back? Nothing would have happened. If they needed backup, they’re fully capable of calling backup. You know if because he’s a large fellow, you need somebody else to help lift him into the EMT’s van because he’s obviously in crisis and needs some treatment.
Why not wait for that other person to respond? Why do you have to aggressively interact with him? Well, because you’re a police officer, and he’s not following your instructions. And that without more I mean, we we kind of there’s, there’s nothing funny about this situation. But in the criminal defense area, sometimes we joke about the the non existent penal law offense of criminally pissing off a police officer. Well, this is really what happened in Mr. Prude’s case. He had no other offense that he had committed that police officers were aware of, other than he wouldn’t be quiet. They told him and if you if you see the entire series of videos, they tell him in a number of ways and on a number of occasions, occasions to be quiet. And he obviously he’s in mental health crisis and he wouldn’t be quiet. But what does it hurt? So what if he’s yelling out into the air? It was offensive to those officers, though. I think I’ve covered, sort of the topics that I’d like to cover, I’ll be happy to entertain any questions that you have.
Horace Campbell 40:28
Thank you, commissioners, would you want me to swear in the next witness or would you want to question Attorney Thompson?
Rashida Manjoo 40:42
I would prefer hearing the next witness.
Horace Campbell 40:45
Thank you. Okay. I agree. Commissioners Rashida Manjoo and Bert Samuels, I now present to you a second witness, Joseph Prude. Please confirm your name.
Joseph Prude 41:10
Horace Campbell 41:12
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Joseph Prude 41:21
Yes, I do.
Horace Campbell 41:23
You may begin
Joseph Prude 41:28
Well, the night in question, you know, like I said in previous interviews and all you know, I called for my brother to be helped, not for my brother to be tortured or whatever the case may be. As you see in the videotapes, as you received, back to where, when he was first apprehended by the police in Lackawanna, you know, they didn’t see no problem you know, with where they had to initiate forceful, you know, mean tactics against him. You know, they called me and told me, your brother’s here, he got kicked off the train. Like my lawyer said, I drove an hour and a half to go pick him up. And in the process, you know, me picking him up, everything was okay. got here, you know, and we had a little time with each other and things took a turn that I didn’t understand. And me coming to terms, who I need to call these people and see if I can get my brother some professional help, because I’ve never dealt with nothing like that. And me knowing at that particular time that when I first admitted him, they released him three hours, no phone call to the family, no justification of why they released him. And three hours later, he’s back off to the same, he starts talking about this, start talking about that.
And you know, that that that really had me worried all over again, like, Man, what am I supposed to do? So I called again, when he vanished out my back door. So we call him again, I’m in the process at the same time, I ran out of here in my socks, and jumped in my car riding around looking for him, to ride along with the police. And in the process of me riding around trying to find the location where my brother is that, I was threatened with being locked up, if I don’t go back in the house and let them deal with the situation at hand. So that brought me forward to call my lawyers. And when I came to realization that something horrible had happened to him that night, you know, I don’t know if it was just my gut feeling. But I called Donald’s associate the next morning, because I had, I had major crimes and all this, investigators showing up. The first investigator that showed up, told me he died on the scene. He regurgitated, I’n the street, his heart stopped. Now that’s what brought me to call my lawyer’s associate. Now when I call my lawyer’s associate in the process of me calling my lawyer’s associate, I have two more major crimes detectives come to my house, and tell me my story don’t add up about me and my brother going to the hospital. Now in the process of taking my brother to the hospital, I’m telling him how my story don’t add up. My story adds up perfectly.
Way I see it, all I did was call to get my brother some help. Now y’all come in to question me like I did something to my brother. So everything came out, you know, like my lawyers say, you know, the Freedom of Information requests. And several cases they denied us, they denied us, they denied us. And when they finally gave it to us, you know, I talked to my sister, I talked to my dad. You know, do y’all want me to let the media see what these people done to my brother? My father told me, go ahead, my sister told me to go ahead. So that prompted me to speak out at the press conference. and telling them, you know, I knew from past, not nearly so much just past experience, but things that has taken place over here in Rochester, where the police get involved and take things a little too far. And I don’t know what set with me and I knew it. So at the press conference, I like I said, I called for my brother to get some help, and not to turn around and have my brother lynched by two people that spoke to protecting the service. Now, if I’m sitting here, witnessing the brutality that they’re displaying to the community, not just me being a Black man, and not just my brother being a Black man, those of a poor class of individual from a certain community that’s been bought, ridiculed, tortured, killed, slayed, lynched. And me knowing this, and me speaking about it, you know, all I can say is that why did he had to die when he didn’t do nothing wrong to nobody? He complied with everything. He did everything that they asked him to do. Y’all got any questions that y’all really want to ask me,. Please do.
Horace Campbell 46:34
Thank you. We’ve passed the 45 minute mark.
Bert Samuels 46:38
Let me jump in here and just give my condolences to you .. about your brother, As you said, you call for protection and help. But your attorney, may I just ask your attorney a question regarding the all the problems surrounding the systemic problems, from police unions, down to the collaboration with the press and trying to investigate the grieving brother at the same time. What’s what’s your attorney Tom’s, what’s the likelihood in your view, what’s from one to 10, of criminal proceedings with the pressure that has come from the public and the protesters? What’s the likelihood of criminal proceedings being initiated even for manslaughter?
Donald Thompson 47:33
I think from what I think the likelihood now because of the dissemination of the videos, and the importance of the attorney general’s office is probably about seven or eight. I think absent the protests that we had, and a very active public response, the likelihood of would have been zero.
Bert Samuels 47:58
And to his brother, his brother, how did you feel when you saw what happened at the Capitol on the sixth of January, to the persons who were actively involved in criminal activity and how they were treated? Versus, versus persons who protested on your brother’s behalf? How did you feel when law enforcement stood back and allowed the Capitol to be criminalized?
Joseph Prude 48:25
Oh, how I felt about that. It’s like, I knew right then and there when I see them storm that Capitol, that is this, this this is something that we’ve been doing for centuries, that, you know, it’s always gonna be right. It’s always gonna be white. If it was Black people that stormed that Capitol, everybody that stormed in that, through that door, that was get caught, If that was a Black, Black male, female, they would have been hurt. They wouldn’t have got the royal treatment them people got that they just and I say it again, systematic racism, it’s not going to change. Unless, thank you.
Bert Samuels 49:09
Joseph Prude 49:10
Rashida Manjoo 49:16
Thank you, Mr. Thompson and Mr. Prude, and my condolences to you and your family. Mr. Prude, watching the video is horrific. And, you know, I couldn’t make sense that you had seven police officers surrounding your brother, a naked man with a mental health problem,s lying on the floor in winter. And it just, it boggles the mind to think that one cannot, as law enforcement think of ways to protect the dignity of people, the safety of people and to do their jobs in a way that respects the humanity of another individual, that joking that is going on, so three people are physically on your brother, the other four are standing around joking. And it just it kind of boggles the mind. And Mr. Thompson in in a document, a summary document that we received, in addition to the larger document, you highlight for us the systemic problems in Rochester, which you’ve also highlighted now in your testimony. And you name police officers. So these are known, you know, it’s like a rogue’s gallery, the names are there, the faces are there, you know who these people are. And it really reinforces the structural systemic nature of the problem. The kind of disconnect between Black and white people the disconnect between the governance structures, and I, if I’m not mistaken, you said the governance structures are mainly Black, and it raises a whole issue of the class system.
So we’re not only talking about race now, we’re also talking about the class divide in Rochester. Which, which is deeply troubling. And you know, so it’s like common knowledge who is the most, the cowboy that you described, the policeman that actually thinks it’s affirming to be called the cowboy. So the patterns of behavior that go on. And and for me, it was really, it was really awful to watch how seven police officers around a naked man with mental health problems. So and you know, the the issue of the mayor now and whether there was collusion? What did she know? What did she didn’t, she didn’t know, is another issue that comes up. There was a time when the police officers asked him if he was HIV positive. And then there was a discussion about whether, and we’re talking 20 March 2020, about COVID. And the question that comes to mind in light of over 410,000 people dying in your country, the behavior of police, when arresting or trying to forcefully subdue someone, the issue of COVID is going to come up. Has it come up in the last 10 months, in a way where the brutality and the force forms part and parcel of the fear, you know, having 410,000 people die, whether you’ve seen any cases, and that’s, you know, goes to the issue of people’s own stigma, and how they stigmatize other people, etc. And then the issue of the protests. And I’m glad that you are taking that issue up as well for injuries suffered for police brutality. When there was a lawful protest against an injustice and a lack of accountability. Are the protesters experiencing harassment subsequent to this becoming now a legal matter? And how do you deal and how did they deal with this? Thank you. I know that’s, I conflated a whole lot of issues there. Thank you.
Donald Thompson 53:45
Let’s talk about the COVID. First of all, you’ll you’ll note that in the protest videos that we see, which is several months later, it’s in September, at earliest, by the way, the police officers are not wearing masks, almost uniformly and and still are not wearing masks almost uniformly. I think there’s a large culture of denial in the police force, I questioned the legitimacy of any concerns that they supposedly had about COVID. At this early date, you saw that none of the police officers out at the scene were wearing masks. So I think it was more about, you know, what can we do to address our own protection here to to act as cover basically, if you will, you know, are people being subjected to special treatment, if you will, by police because of their activities in these protests? Yes, most definitely. I mean, as the protests continued, the police response became more violent. As the protests continued the police, gradually, were able to identify who some of the organizers were, and would target them. And they did. Some of the organizers or the people who were involved in disseminating the word about protests, protesterss have been arrested four or five or seven times during the course of the protests, because the police, you know, after a time would go straight for them. Because those were the essentially the targets. Yes, I mean, there has been an organized, aggressive, inappropriate policing. It reminds me of a gang, basically, of a police response, where, you know, if there has been criticism of police activities, or particular police officers, they will respond, you know, exponentially more. They they took to, during the protests, most of many of the officers to covering their badges so that they could not be identified. They did eventually begin wearing either face shields or masks, I think more because they didn’t want to be identified, than anything else? But yes, their their response to what they perceive as criticism of police activities, has been aggressive toward the civilians and has escalated as the protests have continued.
Rashida Manjoo 56:30
Thank you. And Mr. Prude? Have you and your family experienced harassment by the police, because you’ve been very visible and vocal and are participating in different public activities. Have you, your family experienced hostility and a backlash?
Joseph Prude 56:49
No, not since they know Donald Thompson is my lawyer. I haven’t experienced no backlash at all.
Rashida Manjoo 56:58
Joseph Prude 56:59
Rashida Manjoo 57:05
Can I ask one last question, Mr. Thompson. In terms of the racial demographics in the police force, are they? I mean, what is the percentage on hand in terms of Black police officers in the force? And if you had more representativity? Would it make a difference?
Donald Thompson 57:34
I think formally, I think the percentage is about, say 10 to 15%. of Black, maybe slightly larger, if you include, minority officers. There has been an aggressive attempt to increase minority representation on the police department. I but frankly, I don’t think that a larger percentage of Black or minority officers is the solution. I think it’s more a power issue than it is a race issue. When you’re dealing with police officers, and some of the worst offences or the most aggressive police officers are committed by minority officers. And as you said, as you mentioned, it’s no secret who these officers are. We have basically a rogue’s gallery of those officers who routinely exercise physical force far above and beyond anything that’s called for, and there is a decent percentage of those officers who are minority officers. So I don’t think it’s simply the minority issue. I think it’s more a power issue.
Rashida Manjoo 58:48
Is it power in terms of hierarchy and status within the police service, force? I mean, I’m trying to understand your notion of power.
Donald Thompson 59:00
Yeah, I think it’s its power more in the us versus them sense. And perhaps with a minority officers, there’s a little bit more of the desire to be perceived as belonging to the us group, as opposed to the them group and maybe a little bit more aggressive response because of that to demonstrate their bona fides basically, as a member of the group.
Rashida Manjoo 59:27
Thank you very much to both of you. Thank you.
Donald Thompson 59:30
Horace Campbell 59:31
Thank you very much. This concludes the hearing of the case of Daniel Prude. We will not – we will be; the hearings will resume on Monday, the 25th of January. Thank you very much. Thank you.