Saying that the Rochester Police Department “has suffered a significant temporary setback in public trust” yet still is working hard to maintain high-quality service, interim chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan released a 90-day fact-finding plan.
The purpose is to make herself familiar with the department’s operations and critical issues, as well as the community’s concerns and priorities.
The plan is more of a guide to the transition to Herriott-Sullivan’s administration than it is a manual for the day-to-day operations of the department. That will come, she said, as she learns more about the department and the community it serves.
Herriott-Sullivan was sworn in on Oct. 14. She replaced interim Chief Mark Simmons, who in turn had succeeded La’Ron Singletary after he retired and then was removed by Mayor Lovely Warren in the days after Daniel Prude’s death was made public by his family.
She said her appointment is for one year and she plans to fulfill that term.
The plan was dated Oct. 23 and released to the media Nov. 2. Herriott-Sullivan held a news conference Nov. 3 to answer questions about the plan.
“I’m walking in the door not necessarily having access to all information, some is confidential, some I’m going to be learning,” she said. “I have to have a sense preliminarily of what kind of direction I want to take or what some of the causes might be of certain issues I’m seeing.”
Herriott-Sullivan’s plan has eight goals:
- Assess the current leadership needs of the police department and fill critical leadership positions.Timeline: 1-30 days.
- Identify any critical resource needs. Timeline: 1-30 days.
- Identify the top pressing matters facing RPD. Timeline: 10-30 days.
- Identify and meet with critical stakeholders in order to establish collaborative relationships. Timeline: 20-40 days.
- Review departmental policies and procedures and ensure any needed updates are initiated. Timeline: 60-90 days.
- Determine RPD’s alignment with the 6 Pillars of 21st Century Policing, which are law enforcement best practices. Timeline: 1-90 days.
- Gather as much information as possible about the community. Identify what they need from the RPD. Timeline: 1-40 days.
- Establish effective professional relationships with other law enforcement officials in the county, as well as public and private districts. Timeline: 10-60 days.
In the plan, Herriott-Sullivan wrote that the 90 days are based on the time she needs to assess the operations and administration of the RPD and determine where changes are needed. She wrote that she would work with sworn officers and professional staff. At the news conference, she said some goals may be reached sooner while others could take more time.
As far as measuring success of each goal, the language is vague. The plan spells out what the interim will do, such as “develop a process to personally vet all candidates for leadership position” by reviewing the candidate’s history. According to the plan, anyone with “major concerns” may not be promoted. But the concerns are not listed.
She wrote that she will meet with “official and unofficial” community leaders “in order to establish strong working relationships and develop partnerships.”
In the news conference, she said those leaders range from representatives of well-known community-based organizations to the individuals who have been leading protests over the past months.
“I want to talk to everybody, quite frankly,” she said. “If somebody wants to have a conversation about issue impacting their community, I’m certainly not going to tell them no. Between my staff and I, we’re going to sit down with as many people as we can to be as informed as we can about the issues impacting the city of Rochester.”
The plan was released a few days after Herriott-Sullivan, along with Mayor Lovely Warren and City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot, held a news conference to address an increase in gun violence.
At that news conference, Herriott-Sullivan said section captains would be developing plans specific to their areas. Not all those plans have been finished.
The mayor and Lightfoot said that outside of law enforcement, programs at select recreation centers would be enhanced and Pathways to Peace staff would be expanded to provide alternatives.
At the time of that news conference, the city had 220 shooting incidents involving 275 victims and 31 fatalities. From Oct. 31 to Nov. 1, the city had three more shooting fatalities.
Herriott-Sullivan said Nov. 3 that it takes to implement the changes discussed prior to the recent shootings.
As far as her transition plan, she wrote, “As Chief of Police, I need to understand the public sentiment about the issues they face. Where possible, I need to learn about safety, budget, crime and other issues, and hear it first hand when possible from those who live and work in the community.”
As part of her plan, Herriott-Sullivan wrote that she will “develop strategies for the department that will continue to provide high quality, ethical law enforcement services to the community.”
She also wrote that she will check on the progress of lawsuits and outside investigations “that have the potential to impact staff morale and resources.” Several agencies are looking at department policies in regard to the encounter on March 23 that resulted in Daniel Prude’s death.
The plan pledged that a summary will be issued to the mayor and City Council “upon the successful implementation and completion of my transition plan.”