ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Assemblymember Harry Bronson and Sen. Samra Brouk were joined by the brother of Daniel Prude, Joe Prude and other local activists on Thursday to introduce Daniel’s Law. The legislation would establish state and regional mental health response councils, which would permit mental health professionals to respond to mental health and substance abuse emergencies.
“Daniel’s Law will put New York State on the path to do the right thing and serve our community. It will set up mental health response units that are trained to deescalate mental health and substance abuse situations — which are typically non violent in nature,” Bronson said.
“This legislation would create a state and regional mental health response counsels as well as the mental health response units. They will step in and respond to these emergencies instead of police officers.”
Bronson said the mental health counsels will work with teams and organizations that are already in place locally and regionally.
“What happened to my family was a tragedy,” Joe Prude said. “I pray that it doesn’t happen to anyone else. Mental illness is not a crime and it shouldn’t be treated that way. With the passage of this legislation i know that people will get proper treatment to help them get their lives back on track.”
Additionally, the bill will promote the public health, safety and welfare of all families by broadly ensuring a public health-based response to anyone in New York experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis.
MORE | 9-year-old pepper sprayed by Rochester police: Why wasn’t new ‘Person in Crisis’ team called?
“This is really balancing state and local. It also has some mechanism with 911 and there’s also a training component that we would help people understand when it should be a mental health response versus a law enforcement response,” Bronson said.
The bill will also require 911 dispatchers to be trained to properly dispatch the proper response for the call for help. By dispatching mental health response units that are trained to de-escalate mental health and substance abuse emergency situations.
“The hard truth here is that we are not all created equally under the law and this inequality is compounded when an individual is in a mental health and substance abuse crisis.,” Brouk said. “To do better we need to provide care and treatment.”
Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March of 2020, but news of the incident just came to light on September 2. Police worn body camera footage of the incident showed officers restraining a handcuffed Prude, who was naked with a spit hood over his head, before he ultimately went unconscious.
The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report said Prude’s cause of death includes “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.” The report also showed that Prude also had a small amount of PCP in his system at the time of the encounter with police, which could explain his erratic behavior.
“Joe Prude called 911 because his brother Daniel was in distress,” Free the People ROC organizer Ashley Gantt said. “He recognized that his brother was in need of help so he relied on the only resource available to him, the Rochester Police Department.
“For too long we have accepted the police response as the only response. This community has seen, heard and experienced numerous cases of police misconduct but our experiences are downplayed because we are told these officers play by the book. Well it’s time to change the book.”
The announcement of Daniel’s Law comes only days after a police officer was suspended for handcuffing and pepper spraying a 9-year-old girl.
“Time and time again we’ve seen the police responded to mental health emergency escalate the situation leading to unnecessary violence and even death with the tragic death of Mr. Prude last year and the most recent pepper spraying of a 9-year-old child has rightly outraged our community,” Bronson said.
“We cannot allow another life to be taken, a family to be left heart broken and a community left traumatized. That’s why we have introduce this.”
Full press conference announcing Daniel’s Law:
A federal civil lawsuit filed from the Prude family against the City of Rochester alleges there was an internal cover-up.
The New York State Attorney General’s office continues to investigate the incident.
An independent investigation initiated by Rochester City Council continues to see if there was indeed a cover-up. That investigation is looking into City Hall, the Rochester Police Department and City Council itself.
Along with the then Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, several other high-ranking members within the RPD’s command staff have also announced retirements, in a major leadership shake-up for the city’s police department.
Protests sparked following the news of Prude’s death in the city of Rochester throughout the month of September. Some demonstrations saw violent clashes between protesters and police.