Citing challenges of frequent change, Mazzeo talks about new interim RPD chief

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Rochester Police Locust Club president Michael Mazzeo spoke about the appointment of Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan as interim Rochester Police Chief. (WHAM photo)

(WHAM) - Rochester Police Locust Club President Michael Mazzeo said he is looking forward to having discussions with Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, who was just appointed as the interim Rochester Police Chief.

Herriott-Sullivan will become the interim chief of the department on October 14. Mark Simmons will lead the department until then. A former lieutenant with the Rochester Police Department who retired in 2009, Herriott-Sullivan will be the first woman to serve as chief in the history of the department.

At a news conference Monday morning, Mazzeo said he has known her for many years and finds her to be a person with whom you can have a discussion and has seen the department through various ups and downs.

"She brings in some knowledge and experience and wants to hit the ground running," Mazzeo said.

"I think the mayor was lucky to find someone with experience such as Cindy at least to come in temporarily," he added. "This is a very difficult time and very difficult position to be put into."

He also acknowledged that with Herriott-Sullivan and anyone who is chosen as the permanent police chief, the office could be changing with the mayoral election in 2021.

"There are a number of issues right now for anyone to be named permanent amid the current climate of what we are facing in this city," Mazzeo said, citing short staffing issues, employees who are “tired” working long shifts to cover daily protests, and what he calls "negative views" on police work.

Herriott-Sullivan retired from RPD in 2009 after more than 20 years with the department. She has been employed at Rochester Housing Authority (RHA) since 2016.

When asked about the choices of promoting Captain Gabriel Person to Deputy Chief of Operations and Officer Moses Robinson as a member of the Department's Command Staff, Mazzeo said Person's recent promotion to captain makes him unsure about the decision, given his short amount of experience.

The changes in command come after a tumultuous three weeks following the revelation that Daniel Prude died a week after an encounter at the hands of Rochester Police officers on March 23. Protests fueled by frustrations over video showing Prude's treatment by officers on the scene led to Rochester Police Chief La'Ron Singletary retiring early, along with most of the department's command staff. Mayor Lovely Warren later fired Singletary.

Multiple investigations, both internal and independent, are being conducted into the handling of Prude's case.

"I think it's an advantage to her that she spent some time away from the department in the last few years," said Mazzeo, "to get a different perspective. I think that's a positive thing."

Herriott-Sullivan said she wants to help improve the department, even if she doesn't become chief permanently. Mazzeo said he's not just hoping for open dialogue, but long-term stability in the chief's office.

"We have a young police force," he said. "They are looking for leadership."