ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In early June, as American cities reeled with angry protests over the death of George Floyd, police commanders in Rochester, New York, were trying hard to prevent the very similar death of Daniel Prude from going public.
Releasing the video, which depicts Rochester officers restraining Prude until his heart and lungs failed, could have “intense ramifications,” Capt. Frank Umbrino told a higher-up in a June 4 email.
Deputy Chief Mark Simmons picked up the urgent thread in an email to Chief La’Ron Singletary a few hours later.
“We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers’ actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement nationally,” Simmons wrote in an email. “That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blow back in this community as a result.”
What happened: A Black man pinned to the ground by NY police died two months before George Floyd
He recommended that Singletary ask city lawyers to refuse to release the video.
“I totally agree,” Singletary emailed back minutes later.
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And city lawyers did their best to oblige, stalling the release of the videos for two more months.
In a 325-page cache of documents released Monday by City Hall about the city’s handling — and mishandling — of the Prude case, the arguments by police to suppress the video that showed his death were among the most compelling.
Many of the documents touch on actions by leadership in the police department and suggest police actively worked to conceal what had happened. The documents were released Monday as Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced she was relieving Police Chief La’Ron Singletary of his command and suspending two other top officials.
Together, the documents call into question key parts of the city’s evolving argument over the last two weeks about why Prude’s death was not disclosed to the public for five long months and who was working internally to keep it private.
Prude, a 41-year-year-old Chicago resident who was visiting his brother in Rochester, was dealing with some combination of problems related to mental health and drug use. It led his brother, Joe Prude, to call for help twice in a matter of hours on March 22 and early March 23.
The first time he was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital and quickly released. The second time he was killed.
Opinion: Yes, Rochester police, the death of mentally ill Daniel Prude is ‘your guys’ fault’
Rochester legal strategy on Prude video: Deny, delay
From the moment that Elliot Shields, a Prude family attorney, first filed a Freedom of Information request, the Rochester Police Department pursued a strategy of delaying the release of the footage.
On April 6, a city FOIL officer forwarded Shields’ request to RPD and asked whether it involved an open investigation — a determination that could serve as reason to deny the request.
Sgt. Adam Correia replied that it was an open investigation and then forwarded his response to Lt. Michael Perkowski, who answered: “That is how I would have answered the initial request as well. However, I can tell you that this will probably be appealed and he will win. The City has already been notified about an impending law suit.”
Rochester police officials made this legalistic argument to the city’s lawyers again two months later. Ultimately, though, the law department relied on foot-dragging to delay the release.
A June 4 email chain involving higher-ups at the police department – Umbrino, Simmons and Singletary – was forwarded the same day to Corporation Counsel Tim Curtin, who in turn sent it immediately along to municipal attorney Stephanie Prince.
“Can you review this? Can we deny/delay?” he asked her, referring to the Freedom of Information request from the Prude family attorneys.
Already that morning, Prince had called Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Sommers to ask for advice on Curtin’s question. It is this conversation, on June 4, that the city had cited earlier as the reason it withheld news of Prude’s death from the public even after Warren allegedly became aware in August.
Sommers, city officials have maintained in the past, had told them to keep it quiet.
An email from the municipal attorney, Prince, to Coporation Counsel Curtin describing her call with Assistant AG Sommers paints a different picture.
In the email, Prince said Sommers had suggested a solution to avoid making the video public: Sommers was to invite Don Thompson, one of Prude’s lawyers, to her office to view the footage on the condition that he not be given a copy of his own.
“This way, the City is not releasing anything pertaining to the case for at least a month (more like 2), and it will not be publicly available,” Prince wrote, explaining that the file would require “heavy redacting,” in part because Prude was naked. “After receiving the below I reached out to (Sommers) and asked her to hold off on contacting Don Thompson until I got back to you.”
Prince’s estimate of a two-month delay turned out to be close, but somewhat conservative. It was not until Aug. 12, nine weeks after the email exchange, that the city mailed the footage to the Prude family attorneys.
The family released it to the public three weeks later.
April 10 email: ‘The Mayor has been in the loop’
Nothing in the 325 pages, save for one line, undercuts Warren’s insistence that she did not know the true nature of what happened to Prude until early August, a week before the damning videos were released to Prude’s family and lawyers.
That one exception comes in an April 10 email from the now former police chief, Singletary, to city communications director Justin Roj, who also was suspended Monday for allegedly failing to look into the Prude case and alert the mayor.
The email, Singletary wrote, was to “loop (Roj) in on an in custody incident that occurred.” He briefly summarized how Prude died: “Officers did stabilize the individual on the ground. While doing so, he did stop breathing.”
Singletary informed Roj that the medical examiner’s office that very day had classified the death as a “homicide” — the quotation marks are Singletary’s — with “PCP in his system per toxicology reports, excited delirium (and) resisting arrest” as contributing factors.
The chief’s summary of Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. Nadia Granger’s report was incomplete and inaccurate. She did not, as he wrote, cite “resisting arrest” as a contributing factor. She did, however, list “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint.”
“The Mayor has been in the loop on such since 3/23,” Singletary concluded. “Law is in the loop. I am just waiting for the Mayor to call me back to give her the update on the M.E.’s ruling.”
Roj responded: “Chief, thanks for making me aware. No one has reached out from the media, yet. … I appreciate you letting me know.”
The exchange leads to several questions that Warren was unavailable to answer Monday, one being what Singletary meant when he said the mayor was “in the loop.”
In a statement Monday, Roj, the city communications director, said that because Singletary told him the mayor and legal department were already “looped in,” he didn’t take it upon himself to bring it up again with them.
At a Sept. 6 press conference, Singletary dodged the question of whether he ever spoke with Warren about the case between March 30, when Prude died, and Aug. 4, when Warren said she first saw the video.
In a separate report by Deputy Mayor James Smith, also released by the mayor on Monday, Smith wrote that he checked the email of 28 city employees, including the mayor and the chief, and found no written communication to Warren that revealed what had really happened to Prude.
“I could find no documentation of the chief’s communications with the Mayor as would be expected in a situation of this magnitude; and In this absence must conclude they (the communications) were limited to informal, oral conversations,” Smith wrote.
He said Warren and Singletary had been in meetings together more than 50 times between March 23, the day Prude was suffocated, and Aug. 4, the day that Warren maintains she learned the details of his death.
Characterizations of Daniel Prude: Victim or suspect?
“Make him a suspect,” reads a hand-written edit to a police incident report on Prude’s mental-health detention by officers in the early-morning hours of March 23.
The notation is one of several recommended changes that would have had the effect of depicting Prude as a suspected criminal and not just someone in need of mental health intervention.
Reports were generated that morning on two related incidents. One was the interaction with the naked, confused Prude by officers who quickly decided to detain him under the state’s mental hygiene law. The other report concerned a broken window at a store that later was attributed to Prude.
The latter incident was a crime, though Prude was never charged with it. The former incident was not a crime.
Sgt. Flamur Zenelovic, a supervisor in the major crimes unit, wrote in an email included in the cache released Monday that he wanted the incident reports changed to indicate that Prude was a suspect in the broken window incident when he was being restrained and suffocated by officers.
In fact, the body-worn camera video of the incident that led to Prude’s death shows he was never treated as a criminal suspect there.
In a memo later on March 23, Zenelovic wrote: “At this time we are not planning on doing any additional interviews of officers. The suspect is from Chicago and has no local arrests but a very lengthy arrest record in Chicago.”
Taken together, the edits and his comment in the memo suggest an attempt to cast Prude in a more negative light.
Lieutenant sought conversation with medical examiner before autopsy
A private word? That’s what a lieutenant in the major crimes unit sought with Granger, the medical examiner, before she conducted the autopsy.
“Can you and I have a conversation before you start that. It is somewhat sensitive, as he was in police custody when he was sent to the hospital. I was on scene and have all of the details for you,” Lt. Michael Perkowski emailed to Granger via her confidential assistant on March 31. Contrary to his email, Perkowski was not present during the Prude incident, according to police reports and video.
Granger agreed to talk to him, according to emails in the cache of documents. The substance of that conversation was not stated.
In his report, Smith, the deputy mayor, wrote that Perkowski’s action “certainly could leave one with the appearance of an attempt to influence the outcome of the ME’s ruling on the manner of death.”
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In their first joint comments after Prude’s death became public, Warren and Singletary were firm: this was no cover-up. But that assurance has failed to persuade the thousands of protesters who have marched nightly, demanding that both the chief and the mayor resign.
A slew of investigatory actions, including the empaneling of a grand jury, is now underway. The full extent of the damage — for the police department, for the mayor and for the image of the city as a whole — has yet to be revealed.
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This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Daniel Prude death: Rochester police sought to delay video release
Mass airline furloughs as Congress fails to reach deal
Upwards of 50,000 airline workers could be furloughed starting Thursday morning, after Congress failed to pass a last-minute deal to extend coronavirus relief aid to the embattled industry.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker confirmed late Wednesday that his airline would go ahead with 19,000 layoffs, but said it would “reverse” them if a deal were reached.
Substantial progress on the deal could not be made before the time limit, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business on Wednesday night.
Talks on an overall additional coronavirus relief package, including airline support, will continue Thursday, Mnuchin said, noting that “there’s money for airlines.”
However, those talks could be too late for many in the industry.
“While government leaders have stated they will continue talks tomorrow, for many pilots, tomorrow will be too late — their jobs will already be gone,” said Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a statement released Wednesday night. “The consequences of this inaction has a serious impact on those who are set to be furloughed at midnight tonight.”
Amanda Steinbrunn, a flight attendant who has been with United Airlines for five years, told NBC News, “I feel like I’m being left behind and there’s nothing we can do. It’s extremely out of our hands, and we’re just sitting around terrified.”
She herself contracted Covid-19, recovered — and went on to help transport nurses and doctors. Last month the airline told her that she would “absolutely” be losing her job Oct. 1 if there was no extension passed to the payroll support program, she said. “I don’t have a backup plan. I’m going to be on the unemployment line like so many other people.”
In May, Congress passed HEROES Act legislation that bailed out nearly 75 percent of the airline’s payroll expenses with $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, with another $10 billion for cargo airlines, with the stipulation that airlines not let any workers go until Oct. 1. At stake are close to 50,000 jobs for pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, counter agents and other airline and airport personnel.
It was expected that, by October, the U.S. would have had enough time to get the coronavirus under control and return to more typical travel and expenditure levels. However, garbled national guidance and inconsistent adherence to safety precautions squandered the bought time for travel and other industries.
Now, airline workers are hanging on for hopes of assistance from Congress to save their livelihoods.
“Without aid from the federal government, I will be laid off on October 1 and will lose my paycheck and my health insurance,” said Toni Valentine, who works for United Airlines Reservations in Detroit. “Hundreds of thousands of airline workers are facing financial ruin through no fault of our own. How will we take care of our families without a paycheck and health insurance?” she said.
After hitting rock bottom during coronavirus lockdowns, airline travel began to slowly rise again, but has plateaued well below previous year-over-year average levels. Despite new cleaning procedures from the airlines, passengers so far are largely unwilling to fly unless they have to, absent a safe and widely available vaccine.
Airlines have been feverishly negotiating with their labor unions and offering deals to employees to try to pursue all available options to reduce or delay costs and cuts, such as early retirement and long-term sabbaticals. Hard-hit commercial legacy carriers in particular have been under pressure.
United Airlines negotiated a deal with its pilot union to avoid furloughs until at least June 2021, but the rest of their workforce still faces furloughs, the company announced Monday. Last week, Delta announced it would delay furloughs until Nov. 1, allowing the airline more time to assess its financial situation. American Airlines is still on track to begin furloughs on Oct. 1 across its workforce.
“The airline industry and many of its employees are like Thelma and Louise, racing toward the abyss,” independent aviation analyst Bob Mann told NBC News in an email. “We’ve seen the movie. So, absent a rescue, we know the ending.”
But he said that reaching deeper into the government pockets to keep the industry afloat was well within the country’s interest.
“Does the nation want an airline industry ready to drive the economy when vaccines have been widely administered? If so, pay up, now, to keep the industry vital until then,” he said.
The critical national infrastructure that the airline industry provides — and that will be key to the nation’s economic recovery — could be severely affected by the sweeping industry cuts, Parker told NBC News earlier this month. “We want to make sure that when the economy recovers, we are here.”
Many airline hubs are located in swing states, so the proposed cuts are in areas President Donald Trump needs to win, come Nov. 3. That could put pressure on his Republican allies in Congress to make a deal with Democrats.
Labor unions have strongly urged Congress to step up.
“The Machinists Union stands shoulder to shoulder with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in their effort to get a coronavirus relief package passed for all Americans,” said Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
“It is an outrage that working families have already waited more than four months since the House passed the HEROES Act,” Martinez said. “The Machinists Union will do anything to support our membership and the tens of thousands of our airline members who will be laid off on Oct. 1.”
A major U.S. carrier could even be forced out of business, one industry leader cautioned earlier in the pandemic.
“I don’t want to get too predictive on that subject. But yes, most likely,” Boeing CEO David Calhoun said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “TODAY” show in May, when asked if he thought a major U.S. carrier would have to go out of business.
“Something will happen when September comes around [and the aid expires]. Traffic levels will not be back to 100 percent. They won’t even be back to 25 percent. So there will definitely be adjustments that have to be made on the part of the airlines,” Calhoun said.
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A woman could never behave that way and be president
“Will you shut up, man.”
It was Joe Biden’s stand-out line during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, one President Donald Trump’s female challenger four years ago could never dream of delivering.
“I so feel for Hillary right now because I’m positive she wanted to say that and couldn’t,” tweeted feminist author Jill Filipovic during the debate.
“You have no idea,” Clinton replied.
When Trump called Clinton a “nasty” woman while she talked about social security during the third presidential debate, she ignored him, finishing her answer without acknowledging the insult. Clinton knew the unspoken rules for women, and while she tried her best to follow them, she was often caught between the expectations of her gender and the qualities people tend to associate with leadership.
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“Whether you’re a woman, a person of color, or someone from an identity that’s in any other way marginalized, it’s difficult to see yourself in the position of these leaders, because they’re operating in a world that you’re not permited to operate in,” said Laura Palumbo of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “The double standards are very clear in that behaviors that are admired and respected in certain individuals are exactly what others have to be intentional in avoiding in order to be taken seriously.”
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Rife with insults and interruptions, people called Tuesday night’s debate a devastating example of the state of American politics. But it was something else, too: a confrontation that could only take place between two white men.
Double standards: ‘You can’t be angry’
No female challenger would ever have told Trump to shut up. Even if she wanted to.
The stereotypical idea of a woman is kind, gentle, moral and compassionate. But stereotypical notions of leadership – toughness, assertiveness, the ability to “take charge” – are typically associated with men. For women to rise to leadership positions, they must retain their stereotypical femininity, while also exhibiting characteristics we associate with men. The problem is that once women start exhibiting those stereotypical male traits, they are seen as less feminine, and ultimately less likeable.
“There’s no language that women are allowed to speak to stand up for themselves,” said Juliet Williams, a professor of gender studies at UCLA. “So clearly it would have been ridiculous for her to go, ‘Come on, man. This is unpresidential.’ It’s not just that we’re barred from the boardrooms and the golf clubs, we’re not even entitled to use the same language. It wouldn’t work at all. And clearly you can’t be angry, you can’t be aggressive.”
Research from the nonpartisan Barbara Lee Family Foundation shows that women in politics have to be likable to receive a person’s vote, but men don’t need to be liked to be elected. Qualities such as ambition and assertivness, which are lauded in male leaders, are the very things that make women less likeable, and therefore less electable.
After Sen. Kamala Harris challenged Biden over his past opposition to federal busing policy, some Biden allies suggested she was too ambitious to be his vice president, a charge gender experts say would never have been levied against a man.
And it’s not just gender identity that comes into play on the debate stage and in voters’ choices.
“Double standards and stereotypes play out whenever diverse identities come together. Is a woman ’emotional,’ or a black man ‘angry,’ while a white male is ‘passionate’?” Harvard Business Review wrote in 2019.
A performance of masculinity
Men are frequently called upon to perform their masculinity – in the military, in fraternities, in politics, in relationships – and gender experts say Tuesday’s debate was no exception.
“It was an exercise in masculine dominance,” said CJ Pascoe, a professor at the University of Oregon and author of Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. “Trump walked in and said, ‘The rules don’t apply to me. The moderator can’t tell me what to do. Biden can’t tell me what to do. Tradition can’t tell me what to do.’ … I think what Trump has been able to do is embody this sort of culturally valued form of masculinity that is authoritative. There are people who listen to him and find that sort of masculine charisma intoxicating regardless of the content that follows.”
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During the debate, Trump questioned Biden’s intellect and bragged about the size of his rallies. He attacked his son Hunter, who has struggled with addiction.
But gender experts say Tuesday’s debate also underscored the limitations of masculinity. Experts say because of his gender and his race, Biden is likely used to being treated with respect. Trump’s behavior appeared to throw him, in part because he had a limited number of of acceptable masculine responses to deal with Trump’s behavior.
“We tend to talk about toxic masculinity as bad for women. And I think that part of the message that hasn’t gotten across is a recognition of how bad toxic masculinity is for men,” Williams said. “So Biden was completely caught in a double bind where he had been goaded beforehand about being ‘Sleepy Joe’ and so he knew he had to in some way come out swinging. But his two choices were to look like a woman, effeminate, totally unacceptable, or to be as low as Trump would go, which also doesn’t look very good.”
A year after the election, in her book about her time on the campaign trail, Clinton said that her “skin crawled” as Trump loomed behind her during the debate, but she kept her cool because of “a lifetime of dealing with difficult men trying to throw me off.”
She envisioned, in a different world, what she might have said instead: “Back up, you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me.'”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump-Biden debate shows double standards of sexism, toxic masculinity
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