1st woman named Rochester interim police chief amid criticism over Daniel Prude's death

Daniel Prude died after he was pinned to the ground by Rochester officers.

September 26, 2020, 11:58 AM

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan has been appointed Rochester's new interim police chief -- the first woman to hold the position -- amid criticism over the handling of the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died in March after he was seen being pinned to the ground by Rochester police officers.

Police Chief La'Ron Singletary was fired in the wake of Prude's death.

"Traditional policing practices must be altered and improved to better serve and protect our citizens," Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said at a news conference Saturday.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren speaks at a press conference, Sept. 26, 2020, in Rochester, NY.

Herriott-Sullivan brings a "fresh approach to policing" and is "uniquely qualified to deal with the many current issues that the city of Rochester is facing," Warren said.

Herriott-Sullivan, a Rochester native, left the Rochester Police Department in 2009, after about 24 years of service.

"Interestingly, I left law enforcement because I wanted to have a bigger hand in helping people stay out of jail, rather than putting in that," she said at the news conference. "So I moved on to roles helping deal with criminal justice disparities."

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, the new interim police chief for the Rochester Police Department, speaks at a press conference, Sept. 26, 2020, in Rochester, NY.

Herriott-Sullivan's new role begins on Oct. 14.

Prude, 41, died one week after being restrained by Rochester police during a mental health emergency. Officers put a spit bag on his head and pinned him to the ground.

This undated file photo, provided by Roth and Roth LLP, shows Daniel Prude.
Roth and Roth LLP via AP, FILE

The Monroe County medical examiner listed his death as a homicide caused by "complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint."

Seven officers who were at the scene were suspended without pay.

Prude's family released video from officers' body cameras and accused the department of covering it up.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said she was "outraged" after viewing the video and that she stood in solidarity with the Rochester community in their calls for change.

On Sept. 5, James said she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude's death.

Then on Sunday James announced reforms for releasing police-worn body camera footage in response to the handling of Prude's death. With the new policy, body camera footage will be released earlier in the investigation process, as soon as jurisdiction has been established and the family has had a chance to see the video.

Last week, an independent investigation into the handling of the case moved forward when the Rochester City Council authorized the power to subpoena several city departments, including the mayor's office and the Rochester Police Department.

An attorney leading the investigation said the team will collect sworn testimony from witnesses, emails, text messages, memos and other documents to try to determine a timeline of events, examine how city departments communicated with each other behind closed doors, and what city officials said publicly, versus what they knew at the time.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso, Julia Jacobo and Jason Volack contributed to this report.

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