Ending Police Brutality Starts with Increased Accountability

Enough is enough. In the wake of the most recent death of a Black man at the hands of police,

we must address several problems within the police community. Daniel Prude was visiting family in Rochester, New York in March 2020 when he died via homicide due to “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint, excited delirium and acute phencyclidine intoxication,” according to the medical examiner. When the police officers first encountered Prude, they asked him to lie down and put his hands behind his back. Prude immediately

complied and responded, “yes sir.”

The toxicology report found traces of the drug PCP in Prude’s system, and body camera footage shows him in a somewhat manic state of behavior while he lay naked in handcuffs on the street around 3 a.m. Prude rambled incoherently for about four minutes after being put in handcuffs, and one officer put a “spit hood” over his head after Prude claimed he had coronavirus and began to spit at them. With a hood over his head and his hands cuffed behind his back, Prude began saying “give me that gun.” Despite his erratic behavior, Prude posed little threat to the officers. Body camera footage shows the Rochester Police officer pressing Prude’s head into the pavement for over two minutes with his entire bodyweight. He can be heard saying, “You’re trying to kill me,” as the officer continues to press his head into the ground. After two minutes of this excessive force, Prude went unconscious. Seven days later, he died at Strong Memorial Hospital.

In today’s political climate, it often feels like you must either condemn all police officers or support all police officers. I refuse to be grouped into one of these categories; there is a middle ground. 

We must respect and praise police officers who make a positive difference in their communities, as they have one of the toughest jobs on the planet. Simultaneously, we must wholeheartedly condemn police officers who abuse their power and fail to serve and protect their communities. The toxic culture within police departments of protecting each other regardless of the situation has created this backlash against cops. We will continue to see Black men killed by police in this country unless police officers hold one another accountable and work to de-escalate hostile situations.

After watching the footage of Daniel Prude’s death, I posted a link to the video on social media

and implored people to watch the video. Hours later, a retired police officer reached out to me asking me to stop posting videos about things I know nothing about. After a long discussion, he informed me that “these are people with no respect for themselves much less anybody else” and “cops can’t murder people.” 

While each of these statements was appalling to me, it allowed me to see the point of view of someone who has been in high-tension situations like this before. The mindset that police officers cannot murder people is just plain backwards, and it shows how having authority can cloud one’s judgement. The assertion that a certain group of people have no respect for themselves shows an implicit bias that will certainly affect one’s judgement while policing. We need to eliminate these false notions rooted in prejudice and find ways to build a level of mutual understanding and respect between police officers and members of their community.

Daniel Prude’s death has parallels to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, when a police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, suffocating him to death. In both incidents, there were several police officers at the scene watching as their partner killed the detainee. This lack of empathy, leadership and compassion for another human being’s life is mind boggling to viewers of these videos. When you are dealing with a threatening situation, it is your responsibility to keep your fellow officer in check. In both cases, the officer used excessive force and none of their coworkers seemed to care.

Another example of the lack of accountability within the Rochester Police Department is the fact

that this video took nearly six months to surface. The incident took place on March 20, 2020, but the police officers remained on active duty until Sept. 3, when seven officers were suspended. From March until September, the officers responsible for Daniel Prude’s death have been patrolling the streets of Rochester. How can we expect citizens to trust police officers with this utter lack of communication and transparency?

No one disputes that police officers have difficult jobs, but, to do this difficult job successfully, they must hold each other accountable.