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Rochester Police Department in New York is facing scrutiny for the way they handle a distressed 9-year-old girl. The officers were responding to a family disturbance call on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. They were told that the child was suicidal and had threatened to kill her mother.
After officers arrived at the scene the unidentified child ran away. In footage from one officer’s body-cam people can see him pursuing the girl on foot. The officer is heard calling the child asking her to “Come here, I don’t want to chase you down the street.”
The child dashed around a building causing the Rochester officer to run after her. The child finally stopped at a fence holding her backpack in hand. When the officer caught up to her he calmly asked her “What’s going on? What did you say to your mother?”
The officer attempted to take the child’s backpack — to which she resisted at first. He then was able to get the child to calmly tell him what had transpired. That is until her mother showed up completely aggravated. She began swearing and yelling at the child. Making the Rochester officer’s job a little bit more difficult.
In the footage, the child accused the mother of stabbing her father. To which the mother replied with swears and “He had me in a headlock. That’s how he got blood on him. From my lip.” The mother’s tone began to become a bit more aggressive.
At one point the Rochester officer had to step between the two — when the mother swore at the girl and attempted to snatch her by her head. The officer is heard again asking the mother to return home so he could calm the child down.
When a second Rochester officer arrived he asked him to place the girl in his squad car. This is when the child really began to resist the authorities. Both of the officers had the child by an arm attempting to place handcuffs on her.
The child became even more distraught and began screaming, “I want my dad.” Both of the Rochester officers began wrestling with the child to place the cuffs onto the 9-year-old. During the struggle, the first officer’s body-cam fell off of him and next to the Rochester police car.
After they wrestled the young child to the snowy ground they were able to slap the cuffs onto her. She resisted their attempts to get her to her feet but the officers prevailed. The Rochester officers then brought the distraught screaming child to the back of the squad car.
They managed to get the child onto into the squad car — just not fully. The child continued to scream at the Rochester officers that she wanted to speak with her father. She then screamed that she wanted a female officer.
Who coincidentally just arrived at the scene. One of the male officers moved slightly to the side to let the female officer into the doorway of the squad car.
The child — gasping for breath from being so worked up — repeated her demand to the female Rochester officer. To which she responded, “I will find your father we just need you to get into the car.” This argument infuriated the child and she continued to resist the officer’s attempts to place her in the car.
One male officer then attempted to pull the child further into the car by the cuffs. Which caused the child to scream out like she was in pain. Several other Rochester police cars arrived at the scene during this time frame.
In one of the videos released by the Rochester Police Department, one of the male officers is heard saying “Just spray her at this point.” The male officer was speaking to another male officer who had already pulled out his pepper spray.
The female officer desperately attempted to defuse the young child and explained that they were going to spray her. To which the child seemed unresponsive. Then the unidentified male officer sprayed the 9-year-old in the face.” The girl is heard screaming out in pain.
On Sunday the Rochester Police Chief — Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan — held a news conference.
I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is okay.
The Rochester Mayor, Lovely Warren, added that she was a mother of a 10-year-old girl. Warren stated that the video “is not anything you want to see.” Many other city leaders have been scrutinizing the Rochester Police Department’s actions.
In March 2020, a mentally ill black man — Daniel Prude, age 41 — died after Rochester police officers placed a black hood over his head. This sparked protests across the nation and the police chief lost their job.
Many people feel they should send mental health experts — or train officers in mental health treatments — to handle situations like this. It is clear the Rochester Police Department is not equipped to handle children experiencing mental health crises.
Written by Sheena Robertson
The Washington Post: Rochester police handcuffed and pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl, body-cam footage shows; by Jaclyn Peiser
CNN: Rochester Police officers handcuff and pepper-spray a 9-year-old girl after call of ‘family trouble’; by Laura Ly
The New York Times: Rochester Police Pepper-Sprayed 9-Year-Old Girl, Footage Shows; by Nicole Hong
Featured Image Courtesy of Raymond Wambsgans’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Anthony Crider’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License