Charles Hurt: Rochester ‘Spit Hood’ Arrest That Sparked Riots — Another Fake News Fiasco

In this image taken from police body camera video provided by Roth and Roth LLP, Rochester police officers hold down Daniel Prude on March 23, 2020, in Rochester, N.Y. Prude, a Black man who had run naked through the streets of the western New York city, died of asphyxiation after …
Rochester Police via Roth and Roth LLP via AP

The dark, grainy footage of Daniel Prude writhing and twisting on the icy pavement entirely naked is certainly painful to watch. It is human instinct to look away.

Video of his arrest in Rochester, New York, sparked a new rash of protests against police.

But upon closer review of the video supplied by various chest cameras worn by the officers present, the arrest does not show that the responding officers acted improperly. And it certainly does not suggest they acted with malice or any hint of racial animus.

Now it is entirely possible that there are external factors outside the video currently made public that proves these officers are terrible racists who routinely abuse their power against citizens. But any such abuse is not evident in the video itself.

In truth, the only thing the footage actually proves is that police in America today have incredibly difficult jobs where they are thrust into truly unthinkable, inhumane situations where there are simply no good options.

Seriously re-evaluating police procedures is always a good thing. After all, the police are the very point of the spear when it comes to any government’s ability to keep order and enforce laws that are created by political legislatures. Cops are the hardest point of contact between government and citizens.

Police are servants, not soldiers. And the video recording of officers arresting Prude show servants — servants in an incredibly difficult situation.

You see, good citizens watching that video would rather look away. We all do.

But the police we hire to carry out our laws and keep our peace do not have that luxury. They cannot look away. They cannot simply avert their eyes.

In this case, police were dispatched after two calls from Prude’s brother. Prude had a history of psychotic, suicidal behavior, was high on PCP and had flung himself down a flight of stairs.

All police knew was that Prude was strung out on drugs, hellbent on hurting himself, and, when they arrived on the scene, completely naked wandering down the street in freezing rain in the middle of the night.

Following police procedure, the officers restrained him and waited with him until an ambulance arrived.

At first, Prude complied in a mannerly fashion. But even in restraints, his psychotic, suicidal and dangerous behavior appears obvious in the video made public. One officer can be heard recounting how Prude nearly got hit by a vehicle as he wandered down the street before he was restrained.

The worst you might say about the officers is their casual manner and banter as Prude rides out his psychotic trip, which was at least in part fueled by the drugs he had ingested. You can hear the cops laughing as Prude makes crude statements, babbles incoherently, and offers up disjointed prayers.

Dark gallows humor is, unfortunately, a staple of police precincts, emergency rooms, and fire stations — a tragic result of the unthinkable and inhumane situations our first responders too often find themselves in these days.

Oh, if only they had the luxury to simply look away.

Beyond the gallows humor, you can hear the officers order Prude to stop spitting — even after they placed a “spit hood” or “spit sock” over Prude’s head. This precaution — during a pandemic! — is a routine precaution for first responders. Yet, to those of us who have the luxury of looking away, it seems like some kind of cruel torture worthy of Hannibal Lecter or Abu Ghraib.

Oh, the luxury of looking away.

The video gets even harder to watch as the officers attempt to gain control of their screaming, spitting, psychotic subject — pressing him face into the pavement — as the ambulance nears.

But what choice do they have? How are they supposed to get this man into the ambulance?

Are they supposed to leave him lying naked in the street? Who do they call? Who else is left to help?

The gallows humor turns deathly serious after Prude begins vomiting what appears to be water, according to one officer.

“My man, you puking?” inquires one of the cops before they roll him over and begin chest compressions in the cold flurry on the dark pavement in the middle of the night.

Oh, to look away.

• Charles Hurt is opinion editor of The Washington Times. He can be reached at or @charleshurt on Twitter.


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