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Rochester police announce 2-day mandatory training program for officers

Rochester Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriot-Sullivan
Max Schulte | WXXI News
Rochester Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriot-Sullivan


The Rochester Police Department announced a new training program for officers on Wednesday. The mandatory two-day program will take place in May. 

It’s called the Robert E. Craig Institute for Ethical Leadership, named after the former RPD deputy chief who was at the announcement. 

“We know how to do policing, but we need to look at a couple of things, and one of the first would be ‘What’s our mission? What’s the business we’re in? Who are the customers we’re trying to serve?’” said Craig. “Most important is to never forget and to always ask, ‘what does it feel like to be a consumer of our services?’”

Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the training will address compassion fatigue, de-escalation, race relations, and mental health, among other topics. 

“The conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd reinforced last week that accountability in policing and policing reform has to be a top priority,” said Herriot-Sullivan.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to give an address at the training, which will also feature a panel discussion on “The Future of Policing,” which RPD said will include community advocates, elected officials, faith leadership and mental and behavioral health experts, but they did not immediately specify who.

The training will also include protocol for responding to youth, as well as “excited delirium,” a term that was listed in the medical examiner’s report of Daniel Prude’s death, said Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson.

“What’s important is the officers can detect it, they can see it, they can respond and they can get the person the medical attention they need relatively quickly and that’s what we want,” Anderson said.

While the American College of Emergency Physicians has recognized the term “excited delirium” since 2009, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and American Psychiatric Association (APA) do not.  

The APA openly contests it, saying that “excited delirium” is not a valid medical diagnosis, is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), and has often been used to justify the use of excessive force and killings of Black men by police.

In a statement late last year, the Council on Psychiatry and Law and the APA called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a national investigationof cases where someone was identified as being in a state of excited delirium, including law enforcement interactions, and an examination into any disproportionate use of the term for Black people and people with a mental illness.

Each year, as part of the training program, one officer will receive an award for their integrity, named the Robert E. Craig Leadership Award. This year, that award will go to its namesake, Robert E. Craig.

However, Herriot-Sullivan said the details about the training are not currently available to the public. The lack of information is a sticking point for Rochester Police Locust Club president Michael Mazzeo. 

"No one has received any information whatsoever on what this training is, who is teaching it, and who is receiving it," said Mazzeo in a statement Wednesday. "We need training that is effective, relevant, and is something that can be replicated in the field. What we don’t need is training only so the department can say we have been trained." 

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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