Warren names RPD’s first female leader

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The city of Rochester got a new interim chief of police—the first female to serve in the role—over the weekend. Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a retired Rochester Police Department lieutenant, will assume her duties Oct. 14.

Mayor Lovely Warren made the announcement on Sept. 26, praising Herriott-Sullivan’s distinctive service.

“She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the job, and through her previous service, has proven that she cares deeply for the well-being of our community and our citizens,” Warren said.

Herriott-Sullivan currently serves as the Rochester Housing Authority’s interim deputy executive director. She has held that position since April 2019 and has been employed at RHA for roughly four years.

At RPD, she rose through the Department’s ranks until her retirement in 2009. After leaving the department, she held a range of positions including chief operating officer at Seamless Communications Group, chief executive officer at Rise Up Rochester, and management consultant at CHS Project Management and Community Oriented Correctional Health Services in Bethesda, Md. She also was deputy director of the National Drug Court Institute in Alexandria, Va., from 2010 to 2012.

“I am a woman of faith who believes strongly in problem-solving that involves developing sustainable solutions through collaborations and partnerships,” Herriott-Sullivan said in a release announcing her appointment. “These are difficult times for the city of Rochester, and other communities as well. I will do my best to put my experience and commitment to good use in helping Rochester move forward. We will all need to bring our best to the table. Let’s work together and get it done.”

Warren also added two new members to the RPD command staff. RPD Captain Gabriel Person has been promoted to deputy chief of operations. He has been on the Rochester police force since 2005. He currently serves as staff duty officer, 3rd Platoon, with supervision responsibilities when command staff is unavailable, including overseeing critical incidents and major crime scenes.

RPD Officer Moses Robinson will be promoted to a position in the chief’s office to work in community engagement and violence reduction as part of a team that is currently being assembled, the mayor’s office said.

Robinson, who joined the force in the mid-1980s, works as a crime prevention officer in the Community Affairs Bureau. Previously, he worked as a school resource officer in the Rochester City School District. 

“It’s time for our community to heal,” Robinson said. “And we can heal through restorative justice, law enforcement reform and by bridging the gaps that exist. I look forward to working with our community partners to help make this happen.”

The RPD’s leadership has been fluid since former chief La’Ron Singletary and his command staff announced their decision to retire on Sept. 8, in the wake of controversy over the handling of the Daniel Prude case. 

Singletary was expected to stay on until the end of September, but less than a week after his announcement, Warren fired him. Singletary reportedly found out on Twitter. Mark Simmons took over as interim chief that day. 

A couple of weeks later, Herriott-Sullivan got the job. 

In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters after Warren’s announcement Saturday, Herriot-Sullivan was asked for her assessment of RPD’s conduct in the Prude case. She declined, saying she needed to know more first.

“I want to read the case, I want to read all the reports, (see) all of the video, and then I’d be more comfortable about having an assessment,” she said. “I’m not one to make comments unless I’ve done my homework.”

Herriott-Sullivan also was asked about relations between the department and protesters who have demonstrated daily since news of Prude’s death became public.

“There are some really great (RPD) officers that do a good job, they don’t necessarily make the news and that’s OK. But they take their oath seriously and care about the community,” she said. “I also know some of those protesters, and they are people I know, people I love, they’re friends. None of the ones I know would throw a frozen water bottle to try to hurt somebody. … I’ve known both sides. If that’s what I can bring to the table to get us all talking to each other, then so be it.

“It’s not always about race (either),” she continued. “There has to be a level of trust. You have to have a reputation for doing the right thing. … I’m under no belief that just because I stand here as a Black woman that suddenly we’re going to be able to solve the problem; I don’t see it that way at all.”

Would she meet with the leaders of Free the People Roc and others who have organized the protests in Rochester and who want the seven officers suspended in the Prude case to be fired and prosecuted?

“Yeah, definitely,” Herriott-Sullivan replied. “We’ve got to have a discussion—it’s got to start somewhere.”

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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