WXXI AM News

Police union leader questions new RPD chief's independence from City Hall

Sep 28, 2020

Rochester Police Locust Club President Michael Mazzeo speaks to reporters on Monday about the appointment of Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan as interim Rochester Police Department chief.
Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News

The president of the union representing Rochester police officers on Monday offered tepid praise for the selection of Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan as the city's new interim police chief.


Michael Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, said he had known Herriott-Sullivan for many years and found her to be someone with whom he could have productive discussions. Calling her "Cindy," Mazzeo complimented her intellect and her knowledge of the history of the Rochester Police Department.

At the same time, he questioned whether her command of the Rochester Police Department would be independent and free of interference from City Hall, or whether she would be a puppet of Mayor Lovely Warren.

"Primarily, the issue is not so much on what Cindy Herriott-Sullivan can do," Mazzeo said. "I think it's going to be more important on what she is allowed to do. … The problem has been, for the most part, that (the mayor) has not allowed the chief to run the department. I think she has directed them more than listening to them."
 

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan has been appointed the new interim chief of the Rochester Police Department.
Credit Gino Fanelli/CITY

Warren appointed Herriott-Sullivan the interim police chief during a hastily called Saturday morning news conference. Herriott-Sullivan becomes the first woman to run the Police Department.

The Locust Club issued a statement after that news conference, saying Mazzeo would speak about the appointment on Monday.

Herriott-Sullivan worked in the department from 1985 through 2009, when she left with the rank of executive lieutenant. From there, Sullivan took on a variety of roles in the city, most recently as the compliance, diversity, and inclusion officer for the Rochester Housing Authority.

"She's lived through the department in good times and not-so-good times," Mazzeo said of Herriott-Sullivan. "I think it's an advantage to her that she's spent some time away from the department."

Herriott-Sullivan's scheduled start date as chief is Oct. 14. She will replace the current interim chief, Mark Simmons, who was elevated to the position after the mayor fired former Chief La'Ron Singletary two weeks ago.

Black Lives Matter activists called for Singletary to resign after video footage showing Rochester Police officers restraining Daniel Prude to the point of suffocation became public in early September. Activists have also called for Mazzeo and Warren to resign.

Having three chiefs taking the helm in a month's time, Mazzeo said, could have lasting impacts on the department.

"When you start to have so many changes, you start to question where the leadership is, what the decisions are being called for, and who is making those decisions," Mazzeo said.

Gino Fanelli is a staff writer for CITY, WXXI's news partner. He can be reached at gino@rochester-citynews.com.