ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan gave kudos to officers and protesters during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The media availability came one day after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced no charges would be filed against officers involved in Daniel Prude’s death, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict.
Following the announcement, a protest commenced on Jefferson Avenue, where Prude encountered police before his death last March. From Jefferson, demonstrators marched onto Intestate 490, and then to the Public Safety Building in downtown Rochester. The demonstration concluded peacefully around midnight, with no arrests or injuries reported.
“I want to thank my staff, everybody involved in our process, to just make sure people have the right to protest and do so safely,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “I always want to give kudos to the protesters, they handled themselves well, they got their point across, and when no one is hurts it’s always a good day for me.
“Our plan and our process is when people are peacefully protesting, and no laws are being violated, and nobody is getting hurt — our response is minimal,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “There’s nothing for us to do and I enjoy seeing people were able to protest and get their point across and our staff just stepped back and let them do so safely.”
Before the attorney general’s announcement, Rochester City Council wrote to the Rochester Police Department to request no tear gas be used during protests. The request was heard as new chemical agents were deployed during Tuesday’s demonstrations.
Watch the full press conference:
“I’m a big believer in, as most of us are, you use a graduated approach and a big part of that is communicating,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “Let people know what your plan is, how that’s going to work, and if it impacts them what their responsibilities are, and I think what we did was add that bigger component, that we made sure we communicated.
“We made an announcement up front, several weeks ago letting people know what our plan was so they understood the rules of engagement,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “It’s really hard to hold people accountable when they don’t know what you want them to do.”
Scenes from Tuesday’s peaceful protest were much different than September when demonstrators and police clashed often. The police chief credited both sides for that outcome.
“I have to credit the protestors because we can’t do this on our own,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “They have to take on a role to conduct themselves in a certain way for us to be able to say nobody was hurt and there was no incidents. For the most part we communicated, tried to be as transparent as we could, and listen to people when they had concerns.”
The police chief thanks the New York State Police response for assisting when the protest reached 490.
“Our partner is the New York State Police — the troopers were here to help yesterday and they pretty much took over management of the expressway and I have to credit them they did an excellent job,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “They made sure nobody got hurt because we didn’t get a full on notice from the protestors — some of that was a surprise, but they still were able to act and do so quickly and make sure nobody got hurt.”
The chief said she understand the disappointment expressed over the grand jury’s decision to not indict the officers involved, and she said she wants to continue the conversations with the community about improving the City of Rochester.
“I’ve learned over the course of my life that different people have different issues and concerns that come with their cultures,” Chief Herriot-Sullivan said. “I grew up in a very diverse family household, my parents had friends of all races and we didn’t treat people different. We’ve been meeting with people, different groups — as soon as I finished my report on the 90 day plans, we’ve had tons of meetings. We’ve worked hard to listen and we’ve worked hard to be very transparent. It’s only then that you can really build trust with people because they have to be able to count on what you say.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.