The officers reportedly received a complaint she had been shoplifting.
Trigger Warning: This article contains graphic video and details that readers may find distressing
A disturbing video of a police encounter with a woman and her three-year-old has now gone viral. The bodycam video of an officer pepper-spraying a mother with her 3-year-daughter who can be heard screaming frantically and calling for “Mommy” has sparked outrage amongst netizens. The police department in Rochester, New York released the video where the cops involved said that the Black woman in question was accused by a store owner of shoplifting. According to HuffPost, one officer can be heard saying, “Oh, come on, they said you stole, tell me what you took,” adding, “I don’t have time for B.S. You better be quick with me.”
The mother apparently attempted to leave shortly thereafter after which the cops began to chase her. Later, they tackled her and pepper-sprayed her. They told her to put the child down. As soon as one officer had the child, the other began to pepper-spray the woman. The 3-year-old was extremely distraught but is said to be safe as she was not sprayed or physically injured. At one point, an officer can be heard asking someone to block the scene from the public with his car because it “doesn’t look good that I have to restrain, like, a 3-year-old,” according to the media outlet. The cop has been placed on administrative leave. The woman was charged with trespassing and given a desk appearance ticket. Just last month, a similar incident occurred where a 9-year-old Black girl from the same district was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed after her mother called the police for help because she was suffering a mental health breakdown.
She’s 9 years old.— #BLM #BWM💋🥂🎼❤️💯🗽 (@Mia4Jah) February 1, 2021
She’s handcuffed and pepper sprayed.
This is how we begin Black History Month in the USA.
And they wonder why we’re outraged? #BLM
Rochester police handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl, body-cam footage shows https://t.co/7slGCSmLZt
Interim Department Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said at a news conference on Friday, "[When] incidents like this occur, I am relieved that I ensured body-worn cameras. We do have policies on the use of things such as pepper spray .... generally ... if a person is physically resisting then you're safe on pepper spray usage. But obviously, you don't want to take it too far. Just because we can do certain things, should we? Can we get to the same place by utilizing a different strategy?" Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren described the video as “disturbing.” When “incidents like this occur, I am relieved that I ensured body-worn cameras” for police “so we can see what occurs on our streets and hold officers accountable,” she added.
Rochester’s Police Accountability Board said in a statement it was “disturbed” by both incidents. The statement noted: There are troubling parallels between this new incident and the one on Harris Street that occurred just a few weeks earlier. Both incidents involved Black mothers. Both involved Black children. Both involved Black people obviously in crisis. Both involved officers using pepperspray on or around a Black child. Both appear to have not involved the Person in Crisis Team, the Family and Crisis Intervention Team, or mental health professionals. Both involved police officers doing nothing to effectively de-escalate the situation. Both involved apparent intimidation of bystanders filming the incident. Without the courage of those bystanders, who were willing to stand up and hold the police accountable, both incidents may never have been brought to light. What is most troubling about this incident, however, is this: the two officers involved here were also involved in the earlier pepperspraying incident on Harris Street.
.@RochesterNYPD chief says officers were dispatched for shoplifting complaint. Woman ran a/child in her arms. When chased, she was directed to put the child down which she did before pepper-spray was deployed. Officer put on administrative leave during investigation. @news10nbc pic.twitter.com/z7hNyyHDJR— Jennifer Lewke (@WHEC_JLewke) March 5, 2021
According to USA Today, City Council member Mary Lupien said the incident is a clear indicator that the system of policing needs to be reconstructed. "It's really similar to the incident with the 9-year-old," Lupien said. "'What's your name? Tell me your name, dear. Your mom's OK. What's your name?' officers repeatedly asked her. He must've said it 50 times. Really, that's how you calm down a child? At one point, he says, 'Can you pull your car over here, because it looks bad that I'm restraining a 3-year-old?'" Incidents like this constantly remind us that law enforcement needs better methods to safely ensure justice is served without harming people in the process. Especially young children and people of color.