Rochester Police Under Fire After Pepper-Spraying Distraught 9-Year Old
In the latest outrage provoking example of police overreach and brutality to go viral, the Rochester Police Department in New York are under scrutiny after last Friday officers responded to a family disturbance call which ended up in the police pepper-spraying a deeply distraught 9-year old girl as they tried to detain her.
Amid a public outcry the department released two videos from body cameras. Especially driving public anger is the fact that the child was already handcuffed when an officer sprayed her with pepper-spray at close range. This occurred after an apparent struggle while the child was begging for her father to come, and as she was already in the backseat of the police car, but one female officer struggled to get her to put her feet into the vehicle.
The girl was later taken to Rochester General Hospital in accord with policy regarding family distress calls involving persons in crisis.
The video shows at least seven officers responding to the scene as they struggled to get the agitated girl into the car. Police said she was threatening to harm herself and her family, and they were there at the request of the family.
An officer is heard saying in the video, “Come on. I’m gonna pepper spray you, and I don’t want to, so sit back. Come on, this is your last chance, otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs. Come on, let’s go.”
The sobbing girl then urges for her dad to come. “I want my dad,” she screams, while another says, “just stop for a second and take a deep breath.” It’s as the police struggle to get her into the police car that they use pepper spray after warning her.
“Just spray her at this point!” one officer is heard telling another.
The second, longer body-cam video released by police:
“Please wipe my eyes,” the girl screams, after which police quickly shut the car doors. “Wipe my eyes, please.”
Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan responded in a press conference as outrage grew over the weekend:
“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,” Herriott-Sullivan 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.”
The police chief further promised a “thorough investigation” while city council members also expressed their disgust at how the incident went down.
This is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen. The Rochester police pepper sprayed a 9-year-old crying girl.
— Nate McMurray (@Nate_McMurray) January 31, 2021
“NINE?! How afraid of a handcuffed 9 year old girl were they that they needed to pepper spray her?” councilmember Mary Lupien tweeted. “Having been pepper sprayed I can attest that this incident will change her life. There will be accountability for this.”
Another prominent Rochester councilman demanded that the police responsible for spraying mace on the child be immediately be terminated.
Police contract be dammed, I want these police officers fired TODAY. There is no excuse to mace a 9-year-old girl, a child who was helplessly handcuffed & in your control. Enough with the platitudes & enough w/ “good intentions”. Action today.https://t.co/4rNgIgtqrX @RochesterPAB
— Demond Meeks (@DemondLMeeks) January 31, 2021
The story is also now being featured across mainstream national media, and is likely to ignite further Black Lives Matter protests and unrest as was seen throughout early summer of last year.
Mon, 02/01/2021 – 15:45