Rochester police spent nearly $1.4 million in overtime costs this month for Daniel Prude protests

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In less than a month’s time, the Rochester Police Department spent nearly $1.4 million in overtime costs to monitor Daniel Prude protests.

The exact figures — submitted by RPD to Rochester City Council Monday — was $1,395,580.96 from August 31 through September 20.

Protesters hit the streets in Rochester for 21 straight days after news of Prude’s death became public on September 2. While mostly peaceful demonstrations, a few clashes between police and protesters ensued, including tear gas deployment, pepper balls, arrests, fires, bottles being thrown, and more.

The bulk of the expenses — $1,040,475.38 — came between August 31 and September 13, when attendance of protests was at its peak, often surpassing thousands of demonstrators on a given night. That time period say 2,479 overtime shifts and more than 15,500 overtime hours clocked.

During the week of September 14, through September 20 — during the Occupy City Hall demonstrations — RPD documented 854 overtime shifts, 5,300 overtime hours, for a cost of more than $355,000.

RPD’s report to City Council Monday also included ammunition use, indicating that RPD used approximately 6,300 pepper balls pertaining to the protests.

In comparison, RPD spent $438,880 in overtime costs before, during, and after the violent protests that broke out in Rochester following George Floyd’s death.

RPD overtime expenses

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter, whose office has assisted with the protests, says the numbers from RPD simply come from the need for more officers on the ground.

“This, I say, is a very manpower-intensive thing,” Baxter said at a wreath laying ceremony Wednesday. “These protests allow — we support the protest and escort them all over God’s creation right? And we should, that’s a first amendment right, we have no problem with that; that’s manpower.”

Some City Councilmembers say it was a necessary cost to protect the community.

“The fact that we had to have the police there the entire time was a need,” Councilman Jose Peo said. “We needed to make sure that what happened before with the rioting and the looting, when it’s happened in other cities with these types of protests when buildings are being burned down, did not happen in Rochester.”

However, others on the Council are calling the overtime costs a disproportionate response to mostly peaceful protests.

“Mostly concerned what any department is allowed to spend $2 million without oversight,” said City Councilmember Mary Lupien. “This could mean that we’re at a further deficit next year, and so other things would need to be cut. Could mean that we are borrowing more money than we normally would have.

Leaders from Community Justice Initiative, an active group in recent Rochester protests, were shocked to see how much RPD spent in overtime, arguing that the funds would have been a better use to address community services that protesters are fighting for.

“That money is inappropriately spent,” said Craig Carson, Community Justice Initiative. “We’re peaceful protesters and they weren’t really necessary. They’re protected property rather than people, although they claim to serve and protect.

“Whatever the expense for all that, it could have been erased and reallocated towards all the issues that we know we need it for: Poverty, education and so many other things,” Carson said.

Pepper Balls Use

Mary Lupien believes not only the extra bodies but the use of force was excessive but she pointed out the report also showed police used close to 6300 in pepper ball ammunition.

“The police have been really allowed to response to the protests in a way that is excessive both in force and in spending and that needs to be reined in,” said Lupien. “So we’re talking about 2100 pepper balls per night and just thinking about the devastation that represents in terms of people hit in terms of fear in our community disproportionate respond.”

The number of pepper balls use is shocking to those at the protests like the community justice initiative, who are now worried this overspending could take away from other city services. 

“That’s excessive. That’s just showing the militarization of the police force when they were shooting the pepper balls, those people didn’t deserve,” said Abdul Hadi, Community Justice Initiative.

“So whatever the expense was for all of that, it could have been erased and re-allocated towards all the issues that we know need it; poverty miseducation, and so many other things,” said Carson.

Photos of police from Prude protests in Rochester

Prude, a 41-year-old Black man from Chicago, died after an encounter with Rochester police back in March, but news of the incident just came to light on September 2.

The autopsy report from the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death of Prude a homicide. The report says 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 his death, which could explain his erratic behavior.

Less than one week Prude’s death became public, Police Chief Singletary announced his retirement — along with several other members of RPD’s command staff. The following week, Mayor Lovely Warren fired Singletary before his effective retirement date, and named Mark Simmons the interim Chief of Police.

MORE | WATCH: Footage of encounter between Daniel Prude and Rochester police officers before his death

Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection to the incident: Officers Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris, and Sgt. Michael Magri.

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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