Rochester police Chief Herriott-Sullivan resigning Oct. 13; David Smith will take over
Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan will resign from her position on Oct. 13 and Deputy Chief of Operations David Smith will take over the job.
On Wednesday, Herriott-Sullivan submitted her resignation letter to Mayor Lovely Warren, who will be resigning on Dec. 1 under the terms of a plea agreement she accepted Monday to resolve criminal and campaign finance charges against her.
City Council member Malik Evans, who is presumptive mayor-elect, will take office on Jan. 1.
“I accepted the position of interim chief to make real, systemic change on the force, and I can say confidently that we’ve come a long way this past year,” Herriott-Sullivan stated in a news release from City Hall.
“I am proud of the growth and accomplishments RPD members have achieved, while faced with many challenges,” she continued. “I care deeply about this city, my home, and it has been an honor to work together with officers and the community to build stronger bonds, trust, transparency and communication. I have faith that this collaborative effort will continue, because there’s more work to be done, and we can’t get there alone or on separate paths.”
At an afternoon news conference on Wednesday, Smith said when he joined the department in the early 1990s, it was considered one of the country's premiere agencies.
"We've started along the track of getting back there, we have a way to go," he said. "But ... that is the goal. So I am confident that with the team in place, we can continue along those goals of moving the department forward."
Smith said he’s happy to serve in whatever capacity he can to keep the department on track. He did not confirm whether he would be applying for the permanent chief’s position.
Herriott-Sullivan, who wrote that she is resigning to pursue a private-sector opportunity, was appointed to her post on Sept. 26, 2020, after former Chief La’Ron Singletary resigned, and was then fired by Warren, after public revelations about the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of Rochester police officers. An attorney hired by City Council to review city officials’ handling of Prude’s death concluded that Warren and Singletary both failed to inform the public of something it should have known about.
“Did officials of city government suppress information about the arrest and death of Daniel Prude between March 23, 2020, when the arrest occurred, and September 2, 2020, when the Prude family publicly released body-worn camera footage of the incident?” read the investigation report from the attorney, Andrew Celli. “The straightforward answer is yes.”
Singletary is suing the city for at least $1.5 million in damages for his termination and defamation of character. He is also seeking punitive damages.
The news release announcing Heriott-Sullivan's resignation highlighted several changes she’s made and initiatives the department has implemented under her leadership. Among them:
- The RochesterNYUnsolved.com website that’s intended to reach out to the community for help solving the department’s nearly 600 cold cases.
- Policies around officers’ duty to intervene, mental hygiene detention, and de-escalation were revised, and a chokehold ban was put into place.
- The department enacted new policies around use of force and use of force for juveniles.
- Developing a protest response plan that officials said was developed to highlight communication between the community and the police department.
- Officer training programs were re-evaluated and the department added additional trainings.
- The creation of a Chief’s Advisory Board.
- Violence reduction programs.
"I want to thank Interim Chief Herriott-Sullivan for her many years of service to the Rochester Police Department," Evans said in a prepared statement. "She stepped up and served as Interim Chief during a challenging time for the Department. She should be commended for embracing the challenge. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors."
Evans also stated that he anticipates working with Smith, who will be the new interim chief, and added that he looks forward to the search for a permanent chief.
Herriott-Sullivan has been the first woman to serve as chief of the Rochester Police Department, which formed more than 200 years ago. Warren appointed her to the interim position on Sept. 26, 2020, at which time she committed to holding the post until June 2021.
"Chief Heriott-Sullivan is truly a public servant and I hope our entire community will always recognize her dedication and sacrifice,” Warren said in the news release. “The reforms she implemented and the foundation she created for rebuilding trust between our police and our residents will surely stand the test of time.”
Jeremy Moule is CITY’s news editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.