Recorded on body cam video pepper-spraying a handcuffed 9-year-old girl, New York police officers were suspended Monday for their involvement in the controversial incident.
Around 3:30 p.m. on January 29, Rochester police officers responded to a family disturbance call. According to Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson, the officers were informed by the mother that her 9-year-old daughter “wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom.”
In the first police body cam video, an officer chased the young girl down the snow-covered street. After the officer grabbed the girl’s arm to detain her, the child’s mother verbally assaulted her for two minutes before striking the top of her daughter’s head in an attempt to grab her by the hood.
When the officer eventually convinced the mother to back away, she began a verbal altercation with the occupants of a vehicle passing by and witnessing the incident. The officer repeatedly ordered the mother to go inside as she continued threatening vehicle’s occupants.
As other police officers arrived at the scene, the vehicle appeared to drive away while the mother continued cursing obscenities at them. The officer holding the daughter’s arm ordered another officer to put the child inside a patrol vehicle.
After the emotionally distraught child refused to enter the back of a patrol car, officers knocked her to the ground and handcuffed her hands behind her back in the snow.
In the second police body cam video, the handcuffed girl sat in the back of the patrol car with her legs sticking out to prevent them from locking her inside the vehicle. She begged the officers to see her dad when a female officer said, “This is your last chance or else pepper-spray is going in your eyeballs.”
The cop wearing the second police body cam told the female officer to “just spray her at this point.”
At least nine police officers and Rochester Police Department supervisors could be seen in the police body cam footage arresting an unarmed nine-year-old girl. She was eventually transported to the hospital and later released to her family after receiving treatment.
During a press conference on Sunday night, Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the local police union, stated: “I’m not saying there are not better ways to do things. But let’s be realistic about what we’re facing…It’s not TV, it’s not Hollywood. We don’t have a simple (situation), where we can put on out our hands and have somebody be instantly handcuffed and comply. It’s not a simple situation.”
On Sunday, Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said, “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. 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.”
On Monday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced that the officers involved in using pepper spray on the 9-year-old girl will be suspended pending an internal investigation into the incident.