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Sunday, 27 September 2020

Rochester police announces its first female chief after command staff quit following protests over the death of Daniel Prude

 Rochester police has announced its first ever female police chief after the city's entire command staff quit following protests over the cop killing of Daniel Prude.

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, was appointed to the role of interim chief of the addled force Saturday morning.  

Mayor Lovely Warren announced her appointment in a press conference at City Hall where she said Herriott-Sullivan is the right person to mend fractured relations between the community and police department and bring about much-needed changes to law enforcement in the city.

This came after Warren fired former chief Le'Ron Singletary last week after he and several senior members of the force stood down en masse following a backlash over Prude's death.

Outrage erupted earlier this month when footage surfaced of black man Prude, who was suffering mental health issues, being suffocated by police officers in the streets of Rochester, New York, nearly six months ago.

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, was appointed as the interim chief of the addled force Saturday morning (pictured)

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department, was appointed as the interim chief of the addled force Saturday morning (pictured)



 

Warren said Herriott-Sullivan's appointment will have a 'significant impact' on Rochester and the police department. 

'Given all that has been happening here in our own community and across the nation, it is abundantly clear that traditional policing practices must be altered and improved to better serve and protect our citizens,' she said. 

'I am confident she will bring a different perspective and instill a fresh approach to policing both of which are very much needed in our city, particularly at this difficult time.' 

Warren said Herriott-Sullivan has shown throughout her career that she cares about the 'well-being of our community' citing previous work as part of a critical response team investigation into the deaths of people in police custody. 

Herriott-Sullivan will be the first woman in the history of the force to take up the top position. 

She will start her new role from October 14 and is expected to serve until at least June 2021, when the city hopes to appoint someone permanent to the position.  

Mayor Lovely Warren announced the appointment in a press conference at City Hall saying Herriott-Sullivan will be the first woman in the history of the force to take up the top position

Mayor Lovely Warren announced the appointment in a press conference at City Hall saying Herriott-Sullivan will be the first woman in the history of the force to take up the top position

Captain Gabriel Person was promoted to Deputy Police Chief
Officer Moses Robinson was promoted to a role focused on community engagement and violence reduction

Two other appointments were also made to the RPD command staff Saturday. Captain Gabriel Person (left) was promoted to Deputy Police Chief and Officer Moses Robinson (right) was promoted to a role focused on community engagement and violence reduction

Herriott-Sullivan said at the conference that 'I love this city and I'm going to give this my 120-30-40-50 percent effort.' 

'Ironically, I left law enforcement because I wanted to have a bigger hand in keeping people out of jail rather than putting them in there,' she said, adding that she wanted to carry on focusing on ways to help people stay out of the criminal justice system through 'things like keeping kids off the school suspension track'.  

'I know these are tough times but I believe strongly if we all bring our best to the table we'll be able to get it done,' she said.  

Herriott-Sullivan was a cop with Rochester Police Department for 24 years from 1985 before retiring in 2009.

Since then she has held roles as the Deputy Director of the National Drug Court Institute in Virginia and CEO with Rise Up Rochester, a nonprofit that provides support to families of victims of violent crime. 

Warren dismissed former chief Le'Ron Singletary (pictured) last week

Warren dismissed former chief Le'Ron Singletary (pictured) last week

She is currently the interim deputy executive director at the Rochester Housing Authority and Deputy Executive Director of Rise Up Rochester.   

Two other appointments were also made to the RPD command staff Saturday.

Captain Gabriel Person, who joined the force in 2005, was promoted to position of Deputy Police Chief.

Officer Moses Robinson, a crime prevention officer, was promoted to a role focused on community engagement and violence reduction. 

Robinson said it was time for a change in policing across Rochester and America.

'Law enforcement strategies across the country need to be reformed, readjusted,' he said.

'We need to now look at a multicultural, multi-disciplinarian approach to how we do law enforcement.'

The news comes after Rochester police has been rocked by scandal following Prude's death.

Former chief Le'Ron Singletary, who Warren said initially misled her about the circumstances of the killing, was ousted by Warren last Monday. 

Outrage erupted this month when footage surfaced of black man Prude, who was suffering mental health issues, being suffocated by police officers in the streets of Rochester nearly six months ago (pictured)

Outrage erupted this month when footage surfaced of black man Prude, who was suffering mental health issues, being suffocated by police officers in the streets of Rochester nearly six months ago (pictured)

Paramedics arrived as Prude was wrestled to the floor, still wearing the 'spit hood'

Paramedics arrived as Prude was wrestled to the floor, still wearing the 'spit hood'

Singletary had announced his retirement the week earlier with his last day supposed to be September 29 as he slammed critics for trying to 'destroy my character and integrity.'

Several other senior police officials announced they would retire or leave top command positions after they faced a backlash over their handling of Prude's death. 

But Warren said she had relieved Singletary of his duties effective September 21 and announced she had called for a federal investigation. 

The mayor said she didn't see the bodycam footage of Prude's death until August 4 when city lawyers showed her and has accused Singletary of misleading her about the circumstances.

In emails between the pair released this month, Warren told the police chief she was 'outraged' and said he 'grossly underplayed' Prude's death by describing it to her as a drug overdose.

Daniel Prude, 41, stopped breathing as Rochester police were restraining him in March

Daniel Prude, 41, stopped breathing as Rochester police were restraining him in March

She said Mark Vaughn, the cop who pushed Prude's head into the ground, should have faced an immediate disciplinary investigation and been fired back in March. 

'Quite frankly, I would have expected the Chief of Police to have shown me this video in March,' Warren wrote in the draft email. 

The toned down version sent to Singletary did not include that criticism.

The city's communications director Justin Roj and city corporation counsel Tim Curtin were also suspended without pay for 30 days. 

Seven Rochester police officers have been suspended with pay in connection with Prude's death: Mark Vaughn, Troy Taladay, Paul Ricotta, Francisco Santiago, Andrew Specksgoor, Josiah Harris and Michael Magri. 

Protests erupted in Rochester after the video of 41-year-old Prude's death was made public on September 2.

Prude's family released the footage and filed a civil lawsuit against the city, alleging its leaders and police department covered up the details of his death.

The shocking video shows cops covering Prude's head in a hood and pushing his head into the ground, until he passed out and later died.  

Officers had responded to a 911 call from Prude's brother on March 23 asking for help in dealing with his erratic behavior. 

Prude, who had mental health issues, was naked in the street when cops arrived. 

They handcuffed him, leaving him undressed, and placed a 'spit hood' over his head.

A Rochester police officer holds Daniel Prude's head down during the deadly encounter

A Rochester police officer holds Daniel Prude's head down during the deadly encounter

They then pinned him down on the ground, with his face pushed into the pavement, for two minutes. 

Prude passed out and died a week later on March 30, when he was taken off life support.  

An autopsy from the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office ruled his death a homicide caused in part by 'complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint'. 

However no charges were brought against the officers and the video and incident was kept under wraps until Prude's family released it earlier this month and accused police of a cover-up.  

Emails, police reports and other documents were then released by the city revealing Rochester police commanders had urged city officials to hold off on publicly releasing the footage.

Deputy Chief Mark Simmons cited the 'current climate' in the city and the nation in a June 4 email advising Singletary to press the city's lawyers to deny a Prude family lawyer's public records request for the footage.

Prude's family held a vigil in his honor on September 10 in Rochester (pictured)

Prude's family held a vigil in his honor on September 10 in Rochester (pictured)

Protesters on September 6 in Rochester following the public release of footage of Prude's killing

Protesters on September 6 in Rochester following the public release of footage of Prude's killing 

'We certainly do not want people to misinterpret the officers' actions and conflate this incident with any recent killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement nationally,' Simmons wrote. 

'That would simply be a false narrative, and could create animosity and potentially violent blowback in this community as a result.'

'I totally agree,' Singletary replied, according to the emails.  

An investigation has now been launched by the New York State Attorney General's Office into Prude's death.   

Prude is one in a line of black men and women killed by cops in America in recent months, as protests demanding an end to police brutality and racism build nationwide. 

Demonstrations erupted in May following the 'murder' of George Floyd by a Minneapolis cop who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes until he passed out and died. 

George Floyd died after a Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes
Breonna Taylor was shot six times when three plain clothes officers burst into her Louisville apartment

Prude is one in a line of black men and women killed by cops in America in recent months, as protests demanding an end to police brutality and racism build nationwide. Left George Floyd who was killed in May and right Breonna Taylor who was killed in March 

Floyd's death reignited outrage over the death of Breonna Taylor, 26, who was shot six times when three plain clothes officers burst into her Louisville apartment on March 13 during a botched raid. 

A grand jury this week returned a decision on possible charges against the three cops, choosing to indict just one of the officers - Brett Hankison - on the lesser charges of wanton endangerment.

The charges relate to him firing into a neighbor's apartment and no charges were brought in relation to Taylor's death. 

In June, unarmed father Rayshard Brooks was shot dead while he ran away from cops in the drive-thru of a Wendy's restaurant in Atlanta.   

Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a white cop in front of his three young children on August 23, leaving the father-of-six paralyzed from the waist down. 

One week later, 29-year-old Dijon Kizzee was shot and killed by two cops while he was out riding his bike in South Los Angeles. 

Cops say Kizzee had dropped a pistol, bent down and picked it up when the officers shot him dead, while the attorney for his devastated family said cops shot him multiple times before leaving his dead handcuffed body in the street for hours.  

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