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RPD Interim Chief Gives the Community An Update

By Tyronda James

Rochester Police Department Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, center, gives an update on 90-day plan. Tyronda James/Minority Reporter Media Group Printing & Publishing.

The fifth installment of the city’s virtual community update series focused on the Rochester Police Department. RPD Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan provided an update/highlights to the community of her 90-day plan to curb violence. Also discussed was crime data and RPD’s future responses to it, the new executive deputy chief, Andre C. Anderson discussed the balanced response for violence reduction.  

Herriot-Sullivan introduced her command staff which includes Anderson, Gabriel Person, as Operations Deputy Chief, Thomas Shaw as Administrative Deputy Chief, Business Intelligence Director, Nick Petitti and Willie Lightfoot Sr., City Council Vice President, who is also Chair of the RPDs Criminal Justice Committee. 

She said the 90-day plan is not written in stone and that it’s meant to be flexible where needed. 

“The critical part of the transition process requires familiarizing myself with both internal operations and community issues, concerns and priorities,” said Herriott-Sullivan. 

“Ninety days allows me to assess the current status of the department and determine where enhancement or modifications may be needed … to set the department on the best path I can moving forward.” 

The 90-day plan consists of eight primary goals and to curb violence, which according to Petitti crime counts for 2020 are up slightly less than 1%. 

The 2020 crime data comes from the Unified Crime Reporting Program, collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

  • Part I Crimes – overall counts are up slightly from 2019 and the 5-year average. 
  • Violent crimes – incidents have spiked in 2020 due to a significant increase in aggravated assaults. 
  • Property crimes – crime reduction have mostly offset the violence increase in overall totals due to reductions in larcenies. 

Petitti referenced the recent high profile victim mass shooting on Pennsylvania Avenue, said the increase in aggravated assaults is primarily driven by a steady uptake in shooting victimization, both fatal and non-fatal falling into the aggravated assault category.  

“We’re not oblivious to the fact that these kinds of sporadic events really reinforce a huge role that violence plays in our community’s wellbeing, the community’s perception of public safety, and then, therefore, its relationship with RPD,” said Petitti. “But we do feel it’s important to put them in context, not to minimize events.” 

Petitti said this isn’t a problem unique to Rochester, but nationally and across New York state due to firearm violence rising sharply in 2020.  

Anderson said RPD has developed a viable and sustainable plan for violence reduction grounded in the principles of procedural justice.

“Our long-term violence reduction plan is a collaboration of a community policing plan. You need both to work in tandem. And as we build this plan, you’ll find that we’re working to bring in a neighborhood policing plan that gets the police officers more involved in the communities, working in tandem with those that understand the problems in the community,” said Anderson.

“While also addressing individuals at the core committing crimes is a focused approach to individuals that are committing crimes, it is also a victim-oriented approach that helps people in the community.” 

Anderson said RPD wants to work with their various community partners, organizations, faith-based partners and others to implore the neighborhood policing plan.  

Herriott-Sullivan has said she will commit to a year serving as RPD interim police chief, during the national search for a permanent replacement.  

She said with over 25 years in law enforcement she has a lot of experience in dealing with criminal justice reform and addressing issues of disparity in the criminal justice system, “It’s an area that’s important to me,” she said. 

“And I am someone who was very dedicated to community involvement in any plan we put together. I asked to be a collaborate and I believe that we have to work together to problem-solve, any issues that involve the community.”