America has been in the midst of a massive societal shift over the course of the last few months, fueled by a perfect storm of agitation and opportunity.
First, there was the sudden and jarring halt to “normal” life on account of the global coronavirus pandemic, which began in earnest back in February and early March. A great many Americans were suddenly working from home, or not working at all and collecting enhanced unemployment benefits to boot. In the latter cases, those who were suddenly bored but well-funded were young Americans in food service or nightlife careers whose businesses were effected by the need for social distancing. Given that the youth of America is largely liberal, when George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis there was an army of pandemic-paid protesters ready, willing, and able to take to the streets.
Then, as ever more incidents of police brutality came to light, and the coronavirus crisis kept many out of work, these demonstrations escalated and began turning violent at night thanks to the work of extremists and agitators.
Local authorities were soon forced to deal with the demands of those on the streets, and in Rochester, New York, this meant reimagining the police force entirely.
The city of Rochester, New York, is moving crisis intervention out of the police department amid outrage and protests over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man with mental health issues who died after officers placed a spit hood over his head and restrained him.
Mayor Lovely Warren announced that the crisis intervention department and its budget would be moved to the city’s Department of Youth and Recreation Services during a news conference Sunday. Protests following the release of video of the incident involving Prude in March have continued for days.
“We had a human being in a need of help, in need of compassion. In that moment, we had an opportunity to protect him, to keep him warm, to bring him to safety, to begin the process of healing him and lifting him up,” Warren said. “We have to own the fact that in the moment we did not do that.”
And it wasn’t just the mayor.
Police Chief La’Ron Singletary told reporters that he recognized the need for reform in his department and that he was working with experts and clinicians to get outpatient services for those who struggle with mental health and are in repeated contact with police.
“I understand that there are certain calls that law enforcement shouldn’t handle alone, and we are looking at ways to reimagine policing surrounding mental health and have been for the last several months,” Singletary said.
There are still outstanding calls for Warren and Singletary’s resignations at this time, as protesters feel that these changes are not sufficient.
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