Body camera footage show officers restraining the child, putting her in handcuffs, and attempting to get her inside the back of a police vehicle while she repeatedly cries and calls for her father.
Police officers in Rochester, New York, are now facing harsh criticism from city officials after they reportedly handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl while responding to a report of "family trouble." According to CNN, two body camera videos of the January 29 incident that were released by the police department on Sunday show officers restraining the child, putting her in handcuffs, and attempting to get her inside the back of a police vehicle while she repeatedly cries and calls for her father. When the girl fails to follow their commands to put her feet inside the car, the officers are seen pepper-spraying her.
The police department in Rochester, New York, released body-camera footage showing a 9-year-old girl being handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by officers who had responded to a family disturbance call. https://t.co/9thRGmpDSt— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 1, 2021
According to Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson, the girl was transported to Rochester General Hospital, where she was later released. City officials revealed in a news release that the officers involved in the disturbing incident were suspended on Monday. At a news conference on Sunday, Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said that the officers' treatment of the girl was unacceptable. "I'm not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It's not," she said. "I don't see that as who we are as a department, and we're going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don't happen."
A 9-year-old girl was handcuffed and pepper sprayed by police officers responding to a report of "family trouble" in Rochester, New York, on Wednesday, according to Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson. https://t.co/ogHf2EgdHA— CNN (@CNN) February 1, 2021
Mayor Lovely Warren said that the girl reminded her of her own young daughter. "I have a 10-year-old daughter. So she's a child; she's a baby. And I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see. It's not," Warren said. "We have to understand compassion, empathy. When you have a child that is suffering in this way and calling out for her dad, I saw my baby's face in her face."
Rochester suspends police officers who pepper sprayed a 9-year-old girl https://t.co/7l8aXuOFZC— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 2, 2021
Explaining the specifics of the incident, Anderson said on Sunday that officers were called to a home on the afternoon of January 29 for a report of "family trouble." They were told the girl was "suicidal" and that she had "indicated that she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom," he said. According to the deputy chief, the girl had tried to flee from officers, and a video released by police shows an officer chase her and attempt to provide assistance. The girl's mother is said to have arrived at that moment and the body camera video shows her arguing with the police officer. Anderson said officers then decided to remove the child from the situation and transport her to an area hospital.
What happened in Rochester on Friday is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable. Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period.— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) February 1, 2021
My office is looking into what transpired, but it’s clear that drastic reform is needed at @RochesterNYPD. https://t.co/SReNMFH6xd
However, the girl refused to get inside a police vehicle, "thrashed around," and kicked an officer, knocking his body camera around, he added. "It didn't appear as if she was resisting the officers, she was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital," Anderson said. "As the officers made numerous attempts to try to get her in the car, an officer sprayed the young child with OC spray to get her in the car." The body camera footage shows the child screaming before her head is held down against the snow-covered ground and the officers handcuffed her.
Rochester police union chief defending the pepper spraying of a 9-year-old girl:— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) February 1, 2021
"Had they had to go and push further, and use more force, there's a good chance she could have been hurt worse."
Not sure that's making your case stronger.pic.twitter.com/8BhokISXpo
At one point during the struggle between the girl and officers to get her inside the back of a police vehicle, one officer is heard saying: "You're acting like a child," and the girl responding: "I am a child!" Later in the video, a female officer is seen talking to the girl and telling her: "This is your last chance, otherwise pepper spray's going in your eyeballs." About a minute later, another officer can be heard saying, "Just spray her at this point." The female officer is then seen shaking a can that appears to be pepper spray and the child continues to scream.
Police in Rochester, NY handcuffed a 9-year-old Black girl and pepper-sprayed her face as she screamed for her father. Police yelled she was "acting like a child."— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 1, 2021
She replied: "I am a child."
Police claim the girl was suicidal and that they used force "for the minor's safety." pic.twitter.com/VMR2FjuAKU
Anderson said that he was "not making any excuses for what transpired" and that the department is "looking at a culture change." The department is in the process of reviewing many policies and looking to make changes, he added. New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman severely condemned the police's handling of the situation, saying that there was "no conceivable justification" for police to pepper spray a 9-year-old. "The Rochester Police Department has no business serving as the first responder in a mental health crisis that calls for mental health expertise," she said in a statement. "It's time for a full transformation of community safety, beginning with extracting the RPD from responding to mental health crises and putting trained mental health professionals in charge."