Rochester police chief announces new mandatory officer training program

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan held a press conference Wednesday to announce a new mandatory officer training program for Rochester Police Department officers.

“I want to talk about the future of policing in Rochester,” Chief Herriott-Sullivan said. “I agreed to accept a role as interim chief to make real systemic change and that is still my goal, that’s our goal. This is what reform is all about. I believe we need to ensure that current policies and training is reviewed and updated frequently.”

“This two-day training will introduce a panel of distinguished guests and they will talk about the future of policing, they will talk about the future of leadership, they will talk about community policing, and more importantly, they will talk about how we forge positive relationships here in Rochester,” said Deputy Chief Andre Anderson. “We will focus on how important it is for our police officers to have the proper mindset regularly. It’s critical because we know in order for us to recognize that our officers deal with the rigors and concerns that they deal with; tragedy on a regular basis, we know that often times and many times they may have some form of compassion fatigue. Through awareness, and identifying, and building, we can help with the coping skills necessary to allow our public safety police officers to perform well in the community.”

The deputy chief added that the training program will include seminars on working with youth, and recognizing excited delirium and how to respond to those situations.

“There isn’t a excited delirium policy but we do have a response with respect to what we see, individual that exemplify, or we can tell that they may be suffering form what appears to be excited delirium,” Anderson said. “What’s important is the officers can detect it, they can see it, and they can respond, and they can get medical attention the person needs relatively quickly.”

The chief said the new training program will be named the Robert E. Craig Institute for Ethical Leadership, named after an upstanding retired Rochester police officer.

“We’re recognizing retired deputy police chief Robert E. Craig, who has an unblemished record with the Rochester Police Department, and who represents professional excellence,” Anderson said. “His approach to policing remains an integral ingredient to law enforcement today, as it was in the past. He is a true leader and he does know the way and he goes the way.”

“I’m really at a loss for words,” Craig said at Wednesday’s press conference “It was extremely humbling and it still is. It turns out that the chief and I have a shared vision on leadership and its value within an organization. What we wanted to create is an opportunity for people within the Rochester Police Department to develop its own personnel for the challenges in the future, and that we actually cultivate our own homegrown future leaders of the organization.

“Instead of having people go away for training, we want that training in house,” Craig said. “There’s no going away and possibly bringing it back here. We want to bring our community into it, we value our community.”

Chief Herriott-Sullivan said the training will begin in the next few weeks, and she said the police department will invite media so the public can see how the process plays out during the seminars. She said there isn’t an online version of the curriculum yet, but there will be soon.

“We want to reserve the right to tweak some things,” Chief Herriott-Sullivan said. “We’re aiming at transparency to let the public know what’s coming and what we’re working on, but I think we’ve shown, the extent we can share something, we will.”

The police chief said last week’s conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin illustrated the dawning of a new era of police accountability.

“The conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd reinforced last week that accountability in policing and policing reform has to be a top priority — it must be,” Chief Herriott-Sullivan said. “This verdict was an important step forward, but it needs to be followed by immediate action. It’s an expected part of the job by me, the Rochester Police Department leadership, and the community we serve.”

Last month, Rochester police unveiled new policies on a duty for officers to intervene, a ban on chokeholds, mental hygiene detention, and de-escalation. The chief said there are also new policies on how officers respond to evictions.

“Something else we’ve done is the eviction response on behalf of the police department,” Chief Herriott-Sullivan said. “This was put in place to ensure that new rules put out in New York were properly followed and implemented, and also clarify the role of Rochester Police Department officers, and they are to minimize it as much as possible. What we did to on top of that is to make sure our officers had information to pass onto people impacted by eviction.”

It was the second day in a row for a press conference from the chief, as Herriott-Sullivan held a press conference Tuesday to address recent city violence involving young people, and what the Rochester Police Department is doing to crack down on gun violence. During that press conference, Rochester police responded to a shooting on the city’s northeast side.

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