Rochester Names First Female Police Chief in Wake of Racial Justice Protests

Rochester Names First Female Police Chief in Wake of Racial Justice Protests
Demonstrators march through the streets protesting the death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, N.Y., on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020. (Adrian Kraus/AP Photo)

NEW YORK—The mayor of Rochester, New York named the city's first female police chief on Saturday, weeks after firing the previous chief amid protests over the death of a black man in police custody.

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, a top official at the Rochester Housing Authority who previously served as a city police officer for more than 20 years, takes over as interim head of the police department on Oct. 14, Mayor Lovely Warren said.

"As the first woman to serve in this role, I am confident she will bring a different perspective and instill a fresh approach to policing, which are very much needed in our city at this particular time," Warren said in a statement.

The mayor fired the last chief, La'Ron Singletary, on Sept. 14 as racial justice demonstrations boiled over the department's handling of the asphyxiation death in March of Daniel Prude, 41, who was having a psychotic episode when he was arrested.

Video footage, released by Prude's family, showed officers using a mesh hood and pinning him to the pavement, in a scene reminiscent of George Floyd's May 25 death in Minneapolis police custody.

Seven Rochester police officers involved in the arrest were suspended on Sept. 3. The medical examiner ruled Prude's death a homicide by asphyxiation, with the drug PCP a contributing factor.

By Barbara Goldberg