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RPD Chief Says Department to Work with Courts on Problem of Repeat Gun Offenders

Patti Singer

RPD Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan on April 27, 2021, addressed a violent weekend. At left is recently promoted Lt. Kara Anglin. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

The Rochester Police Department is working with the judicial system on a potential court watch program as one way to stop repeat gun offenders from being on the streets.

RPD Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan talked about the initiative in response to a question about what steps could be taken in light of bail reform. She made the remarks at a news conference April 27 to address violence over the weekend in which an 11-year-old at home watching television was hit by a bullet.

“We’re working with the court process, the district attorney, to monitor repeat gun offenders,” she said. “Whatever we need to do to get at why things are happening the way they are, why the continuous flow of guns.”

She also said she met with Justice Craig Doran, the administrative judge of the Seventh Judicial District, which includes Rochester, on the problem.

“We had talked about a virtual court watch, where volunteers can watch the court process, monitor who is being released and what their history is,” she said. “That’s in the works.”

Herriott-Sullivan said Doran is willing to work with RPD to balance the rights of individuals under the law with the need for the community to be safe.

As for the law enforcement side, Herriott-Sullivan said RPD continues its targeted approach to focusing on known offenders.

“There’s a few reasons for that. One is it targets the people who are responsible. The other is that people who are going about their lives, this should be minimal impact for them. This is something we heard from the community. We took that into account when we came up with this plan.”

She declined to be specific about how the plan works or discuss results. She said she hoped to share that information at some point.

Herriott-Sullivan said the investigation into the weekend shootings, including that of the 11-year-old, continue.

“It goes without saying that this level of violence is and will continue to be unacceptable,” she said. “A child sitting in their home watching television can’t be safe. It speaks to the heart of why we are here and what we can do to address the situation.”

In other topics:

ATVs: The Monroe County Legislature was scheduled on April 27 to hear introductory legislation from Democrats Ernest Flagler-Mitchell and Vincent Felder to ban off-road vehicles on public roads. The proposal comes after numerous complaints of dirt bikes, ATVs and small, motorized bikes disrupting traffic and posing safety threats. Fatalities have resulted from use of the vehicles.

The legislation is similar to a proposal earlier in the month from Democrats Yversha Roman and Joe Morelle Jr., crafted with Republican Paul Dondorfer.

The legislature was to vote on setting a public hearing on the matter.

Herriott-Sullivan said RPD has talked with the city’s lawyers about changing the charter. She said she’s talked with counterparts in Buffalo to learn their approach.

RPD on April 28 posted a video to discourage people from operating an ATV on streets. The video is part of a campaign by the Dirt Bike/ATV Intervention Response Team, a collaboration of RPD, Greece and Irondequoit police, the Monroe County District Attorney and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Policy updates: Over the past several weeks, RPD has issued updates to its policies regarding mental hygiene detention (formerly called mental hygiene arrest), de-escalation, officer duty to intervene and chokeholds.

In an update on March 30, the department said updates to use of force and juvenile detention would be released in the coming weeks when complete. The chief said the department had a meeting on those topics earlier in the day and the policies could be announced within a week.