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RPD Interim Chief Herriott-Sullivan Encourages an Open Mind About COVID-19 Vaccine

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Rochester Police Department Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan receives her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 26 at Rochester General Hospital. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

“All done,” said the nurse.

“All right,” replied the patient.

And with that, Rochester Police Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan had her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

It took longer for her to take off her jacket and pull up her shirtsleeve than for Rochester General Hospital nurse Beverly Barclift to complete the injection.

A few minutes later, Herriott-Sullivan said her arm felt fine, although she wouldn’t be surprised if it were a little sore later.

Herriott-Sullivan, Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson and chief of staff Lt. Henry Favor received their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Jan. 26 at Rochester General Hospital.

“I want people to feel comfortable about at least being open to considering the shot,” Herriott-Sullivan said about publicly receiving the first of two doses. “For those who are concerned or made a decision that maybe weren’t going to, I want to encourage folks to do their homework and find somebody they trust, if it’s a doctor they’ve known for years, talk to them and get their thoughts. And then make a decision.”

While Monroe County is taking the lead on vaccinations for first responders, including rank and file of the RPD, the chief’s decision to have the vaccination through Rochester Regional Health came from a conversation with the system’s leadership. In December, Rochester Regional launched a community education effort and Herriott-Sullivan said she wanted to lead by example.

Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson receives COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

Asked whether Rochester’s police chief is the best spokeswoman for vaccination, considering how some people view the state of police-community relations, Herriott-Sullivan replied:

“That’s a fair question. Remember, I have a history here. A lot of people that know me, know the kind of person I am. … That they know Cynthia Herriott, I try to be a person of my word and that if I didn’t feel confident or comfortable coming in receiving a shot, I wouldn’t be here.”

Herriott-Sullivan is a native of Rochester and had been with the RPD from 1985 until her retirement in 2009. Before being named interim chief in October, she had served as interim deputy executive director at Rochester Housing Authority.

She said her influence about the vaccine could cross generations.

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

“… People that are similar in age to me (are) going to talk to younger people than them and they will say, ‘I know her. If she says it’s OK, then it’s OK.”

Deborah Stamps, executive vice president at Rochester Regional Health, said having the chief and her senior staff get vaccinated increases the awareness and builds upon trust.

“When we have leaders that are trusting in science, trusting the importance of getting back to normal, the decrease the spread of COVID and all standing together, that’s what our community sees. … When I got my vaccine, when other people of color get their vaccine, people want to hear, how did you feel, how did you feel when you got it done, days after. They want to hear the personal stories.”