Rochester mayor names first female chief in history of city’s embattled police department

Rochester’s mayor named an interim police chief Saturday as the city deals with the aftermath of the death of Daniel Prude in police custody.

Mayor Lovely Warren announced that Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, who worked for the Rochester Police Department for 24 years before her retirement in 2009, will take over as interim chief, effective October 14.

She becomes the first female chief in the history of the embattled department.

Prude’s death and police body camera footage of the fatal encounter have prompted protests in Rochester and accusations of a cover-up.

Warren introduced Sullivan at a news conference Saturday.

“I am confident that 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 joined the department in 1985 and last worked as executive lieutenant in the office of the chief.

“I know these are tough times right now but I believe strongly that if we all bring our best top the table we can get it done,” Herriott-Sullivan said.

“I love this city and I’m going to give it my 110, 20, 40, 50% percent effort,” she said

Seven police officers involved in the Prude case have been suspended, and the mayor fired Rochester Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and suspended two city hall department heads.

Attorneys for Prude’s family released bodycam video that showed officers covering the man’s head with a “spit sock” and holding him on the ground in a prone position before he stopped breathing.

Prude, 41, was having a mental health episode on March 23 when his brother called the Rochester Police Department for help, according to his family.

Video showed officers handcuff Prude, who was naked, in the middle of a snowy wet street, and place the covering over his head.

Several minutes later, EMTs arrived and began to perform chest compressions, the video showed. He was then placed on a gurney and into an ambulance.

When Prude arrived at the hospital, he was brain dead, according to his family. He died a week later, on March 30.

His death was ruled a homicide by the Monroe County Medical Examiner. The autopsy report cited complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint. It also cited excited delirium and acute PCP intoxication as causes of death.

The Rochester City Council has authorized an independent investigation, tasking a law firm with determining what happened within government agencies after Prude’s death.

The city this month released more than 300 pages of internal communications, police reports and other documents that show a concerted effort by police and local officials to control the narrative around Prude’s death in custody and delay the release of police body camera footage of his interaction with police.

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced earlier this month that she was empaneling a grand jury to investigate the death.

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