Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has appointed a new interim police chief. And Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan will be the first female to hold the chief’s position for RPD.
She is a former RPD lieutenant who has been employed at the Rochester Housing Authority since 2016, originally working in the areas of compliance, diversity, inclusion and public safety. She currently serves at RHA’s interim Deputy Executive Director.
Herriott-Sullivan has also held positions that include CEO at Rise Up Rochester, which provides support to crime victims and their families, and she worked as a consultant in criminal justice. Herriott-Sullivan said on Saturday that, “I left law enforcement because I wanted to have a bigger hand in helping people stay out of jail, rather than putting them in that and so I moved on to roles that helped me in dealing with criminal justice disparities."
The announcement this weekend came after a major shakeup in the RPD command staff following the release of bodycam video earlier this month that showed officers pinning Daniel Prude to the ground in March after they responded to a mental health call. He suffocated and died a week later.
There have been protests throughout the city for a number of days since that video was released. There are also a number of ongoing investigations into what happened and the timeline of events including a grand jury empaneled by the NY State Attorney General, Letitia James. Seven Rochester officers involved in the March incident were suspended with pay while the investigation continues.
Protesters have called for the firing and prosecution of the officers involved and for the resignation of the mayor and other local officials.
On Saturday Warren also named RPD Captain Gabriel Person as Deputy Chief of Operations, and RPD Officer Moses Robinson will be part of the command staff as well, working in the chief’s office in community engagement and violence reduction.
Robinson joined the department in 1985 and has spent much of his career in community policing and crime prevention officer roles. Person started with the RPD in 2005 and was promoted to captain last year.
“This is a pivotal time in the city of Rochester’s history, and I’m very proud to be a member of the Rochester Police Department,” Person said. “I’m looking forward to working with all members of the community.”
With the new appointments, Warren said the city now has the potential to introduce a new model of policing, stating Herriott-Sullivan marks “a step forward.”
What exact plans for reform are on the table is currently unclear.
“Given all that has happened in our own community and across the nation, it has become abundantly clear that traditional policing practices must be altered and improved to better protect our citizens,” Warren said.
The news conference Saturday marked the first that that Warren has spoken to the press corps since her administration released a 325-page report compiled by her deputy mayor, James Smith, on the city's handling — and mishandling — of the death of Daniel Prude.
She had said at the outset of the report's release on Sept. 14 that she would give the media "a few days to digest" the report before answering questions. She has, however, given at least one exclusive interview to a television news station since.
Warren did not take any general questions on Saturday about the current investigations going on regarding the death of Daniel Prude.