Police in Rochester, New York pepper-sprayed a nine-year-old girl while she was handcuffed in the back of a police car, as seen on body-camera footage from an incident last Friday, January 29th.
As the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports, the footage was released Sunday, January 31st. Following the incident, the child was taken to Rochester General Hospital where she was treated, and then released to her family.
A representative for the Rochester Police Department did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
The incident took place Friday afternoon, when RPD officers responded to a call involving “family trouble” and a possible stolen vehicle. After arriving, the nine-year-old’s mother told the officers she was worried her daughter might harm herself and others. RPD Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson described her as suicidal and added that she “wanted to kill her mom” as well, during a press conference Sunday.
At one point, the girl ran from the home and was chased down by an officer. After the girl’s mother arrived, she began arguing with the officer, causing more commotion and reportedly upsetting the girl further. Eventually, as the officers tried to put the girl into the cop car, she kicked at them and tried to pull away, which, according to a police statement, “required” an officer to take her down to the ground.
The child was then handcuffed and again officers tried to put her in the back of a patrol car until an ambulance could arrive. Police said the girl refused to listen and put her feet in the car, which the police said “required an officer to use an irritant on the minor.”
In the video, the girl appears distressed and emotional, and screams repeatedly for her father, saying she doesn’t want to get in the car until she sees him. In one exchange, an officer tells the girl “You’re acting like a child,” to which the girl responds, “I am a child.”
After asking her to calm down multiple, one officer eventually says, “Just spray her at this point.”
At Sunday’s press conference, interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said, “I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a nine-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not. 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.”
The names of the officers involved in the incident have yet to be released. RPD Captain Mark Mura said on Saturday, “The incident is under review at this time.” Meanwhile, the outcry has grown among residents and local activists, with Rev. Lewis Stewart of the United Christian Leadership Ministry calling the incident part of a “pattern of inappropriate and inhumane behavior” by the RPD. Rev. Stewart also echoed Mayor Lovely Warren’s call for the expedited implementation of the Person in Crisis team to respond to non-violent mental health calls.
This incident in Rochester notably comes months after video emerged of a March 2020 incident in which RPD officers placed a hood over the head of a black man, Daniel Prude, knelt on him, and pressed his face into the pavement for several minutes, suffocating him. Prude died seven days later, March 30th; the video didn’t become public until September 3rd, 2020.