The incident has increased calls to defund the police and have mental health professionals respond to such incidents.
Trigger warning: This story contains details of child abuse and police brutality that readers may find disturbing.
Police officers handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old Black girl while responding to a distress call from a family in an incident in Rochester, New York. Police officials described the incident reported as "family trouble" and ended up attacking the 9-year-old. The incident had been caught on bodycam footage and highlighted the apathy of the police force yet again and once again raised the debate as to whether police officers should be responding to incidents concerning mental health. The police force had intentionally delayed the release of the bodycam footage which highlighted the arrogance of the cops and their apathy towards people. The video showed the officers forcefully pushing the girl's head against the snow-covered ground before handcuffing, and pepper-spraying her to get her inside the back of a police vehicle, reported CNN. At one point, the cop chides the 9-year-old for "acting a child, only for her to shout back, "I am a child!"
Rochester police pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old Black girl after she refused to get into a police car and pleaded to see her dad.— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 2, 2021
The child was arguing with her mom before the police handcuffed the girl on the ground, pushed her into a police car and sprayed her. pic.twitter.com/jP5CtXubQj
Throughout the video, she can be heard crying for her father. She was later taken to Rochester General Hospital, before being released, stated the Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson. City officials have confirmed that the officer involved in the incident has been suspended. Mayor Lovely Warren fired the police chief, and added that there was a "pervasive problem" in the police department. Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the actions of the police officers were not acceptable. "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," said Herriott-Sullivan. "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."
Mayor Lovely Warren said she could relate to the feelings of the family as she had a young daughter herself. "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," said Warren. "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."
The incident happened on January 29. The officers were told the girl was suicidal and had "indicated that she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom," stated Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson. He said the girl had attempted to flee from the police who chased her. She refused to get inside a police vehicle, "thrashed around," and kicked an officer, knocking his body camera around, said Anderson.
The videos of Rochester police handcuffing and using pepper spray on a young girl are disturbing and heartbreaking. This alarming incident must be fully investigated. pic.twitter.com/9PAIyHWlYu— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) February 2, 2021
"It didn't appear as if she was resisting the officers, she was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital," said Anderson. "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." Another woman officer can be seen threatening the 9-year-old. "This is your last chance, otherwise pepper spray's going in your eyeballs." Another officer, eggs the officer, telling her, "Just spray her at this point." The woman officer can be seen shaking the can and appears to be spraying her as the child screams. Neither the child nor the officers involved in the incident have been identified. New York Attorney General Letitia James tweeted: "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. My office is looking into what transpired, but it's clear that drastic reform is needed at (Rochester Police Department)," James said.
“You’re acting like a child.” She responded, “I am a child.”— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) February 2, 2021
The Rochester Police Department murdered Daniel Prude less than a year ago. On Friday, they pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old baby.
Recognize Black humanity. Defund the police and invest in our communities. https://t.co/JeoR8ltnvY