Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan sworn in as first female Rochester Police Chief in RPD history

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — New interim Rochester Police Chief, Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, was sworn into office Wednesday morning, becoming the first female police chief in the two-century history of the Rochester Police Department.

Mayor Lovely Warren announced late last month that she would be taking over the department, after former chief La’Ron Singletary was fired in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death.

MORE | Police union president optimistic about interim chief, says mayoral election clouds next permanent chief

“I believe this is an important step for healing in our community,” Mayor Warren said Wednesday. “I am confident she has the intelligence, experience, wisdom, and patience to truly make a difference.” She’s had the chance to sit on both sides of the table. Because of who she is and her own unique experiences, I know that Chief Herriott-Sullivan has the skills to help build bridges between the police and the community: She will make sure that all voices are heard.”

Chief Herriott-Sullivan is a former RPD Lieutenant who rose through the ranks before her retirement from the force in 2009. To reiterate, she now becomes the first female to hold the position of chief in RPD history, which has been in operation for more than 200 years.

While in the force Herriott-Sullivan focused on improving policies for small crime offenders and increasing drug- addiction support, and hopes to do the same as chief. 

“If we can do things a little bit better, kinda of tweak so that we have a better outcome, that just makes sense to me. I just don’t see a issue with that some I’m all for that quite frankly,” said Chief Herriott-Sullivan. “I think it’s always a good thing to debrief, to reevaluate. To look how you’ve done and think how could I have done things a little bit different a little bit better.”

Herriott-Sullivan would not comment directly on the daniel prude case as she is still reviewing material, but says she has watched protests through the city the last month, and plans to sit down with protests leaders.

“Definitely open to conversation. Got to. We have to fix it together. We can’t do that unless we’re talking to each other,” said Chief Herriott-Sullivan.

“If our hands aren’t clean we own what we did wrong we make the situation whole and we all move on. but we have to do that right thing,” said Chief Herriott-Sullivan.

“She didn’t choose her own self-comfort, she didn’t choose the path of least resistance,” Mayor Warren said. “She chose instead, with the blessing of her husband and her pastor, to serve where she was needed most.”

“It is true that as a person of faith I wrestled with, the the pastor knows, trying to get him to talk me out of it, but he just wasn’t going to go there,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “I do know the selfish part of me had no problem saying ‘I don’t think so.’ Good friend once told me that as a leader you can’t put your head down and turn your head away and go about your business, you have to do something.”

Mayor Warren has previously indicated that she expects the interim chief to hold the position until at least next June, but as protests over police brutality in the community continue to swirl, the new chief will have to get right to work.

“It’s going to be hard, but we’re going to hit the ground running,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “I am working on a 90-day plan. If you had any thoughts that I’m going to come up with this plan that implements something and you’re going to watch, you’re sadly mistaken: This is a partnership.”

Chief Herriott-Sullivan has been employed at Rochester Housing Authority (RHA) since 2016, originally working in the areas of compliance, diversity, inclusion and public safety.  She currently serves as RHA’s Interim Deputy Executive Director, a position she has held since April 2019.

“We’re trying to get this city right, so that we can move forward and have a sustainable process, so that we can make sure the Rochester that we all know can live up to its full potential and that everybody feels they have a say and can come to the table,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said.

Prior to joining the staff at RHA, the police chief held a number of positions, including Chief Operating Officer at Seamless Communications Group, Chief Executive Officer at Rise Up Rochester, and Management Consultant at CHS Project Management.

While in office, Chief Herriot-Sullivan will have to oversee a policy and protocol overhaul of the police department. An executive order earlier this year from Gov. Andrew Cuomo tasked every law enforcement agency in New York state to redesign their respective departments, with community input and approval, or risk losing critical state funding.

MORE | Gov. Cuomo issues executive order on police reform, no state funding if departments don’t comply

Full press conference:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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