Last Friday, Police officers in Rochester, New York, had an incident with a 9-year-old girl.
They had to handcuff and pepper-spray her while responding to what a police official called a report of ‘family trouble’ in an incident sharply criticized by city officials.
What Originally Happened
On Sunday, the police department released two body camera videos of this Friday’s incident.
The video materials show officers restraining the child, putting her in handcuffs, and attempting to get her inside the back of a police vehicle as she repeatedly cries and calls for her father.
After the girl refuses to follow the commands she was given, the officers are seen pepper-spraying her.
Shortly after the incident, the girl was transported to Rochester General Hospital. Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson claimed that she was released shortly after her check-up.
According to a news release from city officials, the officers involved in this case were suspended on Monday.
But people have noticed that the incident has troubling similarities to the death of Daniel Prude.
He was a Black man who died in March after Rochester police pinned him to the ground and placed a hood over his head as he experienced a mental health episode.
The camera footage of Daniel’s incident was released in August. By that time, the city officials have already intentionally delayed his case.
Therefore, their actions led to protests over the police’s treatment of Black people and those experiencing mental health crises.
And in the aftermath, Mayor Lovely Warren fired the police chief, saying there was a pervasive problem in the police department.
There was a news conference on Sunday, where Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan tried to explain everything about this case.
“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.”
Warren added how the girl reminded her of her young daughter:
“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. 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.”
A ‘Family Trouble’
The officers claim that they were called to a home on the afternoon of January 29. The report was related to a ‘family trouble.’
Later, the deputy explained how the officers were told that the girl was suicidal. She indicated that she wanted to kill herself and her mom.
Meanwhile, the girl tried to escape. So, the released video showed the officer who chased her and their attempt to assist.
After the chase, the mother of the girl arrived. The mother and daughter started arguing, so the police decided to remove the child from the situation and transport her to an area hospital.
But the girl refused to collaborate and started kicking the officer near her, knocking his body camera around.
Anderson claimed that no matter how many attempts the officers had, they couldn’t get her into the car. So, the pepper-spray came into the picture to calm the child and help them get her in the car.
Yet, the video shows the girl repeatedly crying out for her father while being physically restrained by officers.
She is screaming before they hold her head down against the snow-covered ground, and she’s handcuffed.
At one point, one officer says that she’s acting like a child.
Later in the video, a female officer talks with the girl, trying to calm her down.
Eventually, she warned her that pepper-spray would be their next instance if she continues with her behavior. And about a minute later, another officer gives an order to spray her at that point.
The officers involved in the incident were not identified by police, nor were the child or her mother.
Anderson said that he was not making any excuses for what transpired.
He added that the department is looking at a culture change and is currently reviewing many policies.
Mayor Warren said she had directed the chief of police to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the incident.
She was ready to welcome the review of what happened by the city’s police accountability board. But after Monday’s officer suspensions, she said what happened was simply horrible.
Attorneys and organizations shared their thoughts by adding how this was deeply disturbing and entirely unacceptable.
Many people shared their opinion about the case, noting that minors should not be handcuffed or chemically sprayed.
Paying Attention To Mental Health
It’s more than clear that families and children should have support.
New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Donna Lieberman claimed:
“The Rochester Police Department has no business serving as the first responder in a mental health crisis that calls for mental health expertise.”
Furthermore, she added:
“It’s time for a full transformation of community safety, beginning with extracting the RPD from responding to mental health crises and putting trained mental health professionals in charge.”
Others agreed that what happened there was part of a pattern of inappropriate and inhumane behavior.
This incident highlights the urgency of pressing forward regarding reimagining and reinventing the police and public safety.
Because in the end, safety comes first.
For that matter, there were a small gathering and a protest march on Monday evening. Dozens of people joined the call, walked through the streets, and stopped at a police precinct.