Departmental charges filed against RPD officer in Prude case. What’s next?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Rochester Police Department Thursday night announced departmental charges Mark Vaughn, one of the Rochester Police officers involved in handcuffing Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020, saying that Vaughn is entitled to due process to defend himself against the charges.

An investigation by New York State Attorney General Letitia James found no cause for any criminal charges, but this is an employment proceeding, under which Vaughn could face discipline up to being fired and, a year and a half after Prude died. It’s a step many observers have been waiting for.

"The internal investigation, I think, for a lot of people, is really the last chance to hold officers accountable for Daniel Prude’s death" said Rochester City Councilwoman Mary Lupien.

Disturbing body camera video of police, including Vaughn, taking Prude into custody, and specifically, pinning his head down, has captivated the city since it was made public just over a year ago, more than five months after his death.

That delay all by itself touched off outrage at the Rochester Police Department and at Mayor Lovely Warren.

In March of 2020 police took Prude in on a mental health call, as they held him down, he stopped breathing.

He was declared dead in the hospital a week later.

Seven Rochester Police officers were put on paid leave over the case and then-police Chief La’Ron Singletary was fired, but the city’s Office of Public Integrity found no violations of policies and the state attorney general couldn’t get any criminal indictments from a grand jury.

Now the department says Vaughn has been served with "departmental charges" after a special outside attorney, Langston McFadden, dubbed a "conflict counsel" engaged by the city looked over all the investigations and determined there’s enough evidence to warrant a further look at possible disciplinary action against Vaughn.

McFadden: "There is enough to warrant a deeper look into whether or not Office or Van violated department procedures and policies, engaged in professional misconduct on the night in question."

News10NBC Reporter Charles Molineaux: "Does a deeper look, as you put it, rise to the level of actual wrongdoing?"

McFadden: "That will be for the hearing officer to determine."

The president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, Mike Mazzeo, texted: "Our rank and file are totally disgusted with the actions of the city… They stepped up and have been working long hours, only to have the interim person put out a lie. There is no way to sustain those charges! "

McFadden told News10NBC he can’t go into detail on the specific charges or accusations against Vaughn but that the case will go before a special hearing officer in a "mini-trial" and its findings will go before the police chief.

It’s a section 75 hearing under civil service law and McFadden said the whole process can take six months to one year.