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Police officers handcuffed and pepper sprayed a nine-year-old girl in Rochester, New York, on Friday, after officers responded to a report of “family trouble,” according to the Associated Press.
The police department released body camera footage of the incident on Sunday. The videos show officers restraining the girl and trying to put her in the back of a police vehicle, all while she can be heard crying and calling out for her father, according to CNN. Police officers pepper sprayed her after she refused to put her feet inside the vehicle, and an officer can be heard saying, “Just spray her at this point.” In the video, an officer can also be heard telling the girl she’s “acting like a child,” to which she responds, “I am a child.”
Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson said at a news conference on Sunday that while the officers were investigating a call for “family trouble,” they were told the nine-year-old girl was suicidal and wanted to kill herself and her mom. The police department said in a statement that “for the minor’s safety and at the request of the custodial parent on scene,” the girl was handcuffed and put in the police car while they waited for an ambulance. According to CNN, Anderson said, “It didn’t appear as if she was resisting the officers, she was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital. 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 girl ended up being transported to an area hospital and later released to her family.
During a press conference following the incident, Rochester 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.”
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also spoke at a press conference and said the incident was “not something that any of us should want to justify.” She added, “I have a 10-year-old child, so she’s a child. She’s a baby. This video, as a mother, is not anything you want to see.” Warren said the city’s Person in Crisis mental health team would reach out to the family.
The ABC affiliate 13WHAM reported that, as of Sunday night, the police officers involved were still on duty. Following the incident, Anderson has said the police department is looking to make changes to its policies, and Warren has called for a thorough investigation.
Rochester Police also came under scrutiny last year when Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, died of asphyxiation after police put a hood over his head and pressed his face into the street for two minutes. In response, Warren said in a press conference that an initial investigation into Prude’s death “has shown what so many have suspected, that we have a pervasive problem in the Rochester Police Department.”
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