On Monday, Rochester, New York mayor Lovely Warren announced that three Rochester police officers involved in the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old girl have been suspended. The announcement came just before a night of local protests and New York state lawmakers introducing new legislature.
Rochester senators Samra Brouk and Desmond Meeks have introduced an amendment to current state law to prohibit officers from using chemicals against minors under any circumstance.
“We can at least make sure that no child will ever again be treated like this,” Brouk explained. “At a time when this young girl was in the middle of a crisis, away from her parents, instead of being comforted, spoken to as a child, she was treated violently and pepper-sprayed in the face.”
In a video of the incident, Rochester police can be seen restraining the girl, handcuffing and pepper-spraying her as she cries out for her father. Rochester’s Interim police chief Cynthia Herriot-Sullivan has spoken with the girl’s mother and is in the process of connecting the family with the city’s Person in Crisis mental health team.
“You’re acting like a child,” an officer says. “I am a child!” the girl responded.
“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,” Herriot-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.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed, saying in a statement that the incident is proof “the relationship between police and the communities they serve is clearly not working.”
The involved officers were called to the girl’s homes for a report of “family trouble.” The girl was reportedly suicidal. Rochester deputy chief Andre Anderson says the officers were told the girl was suicidal and made threats against her mother and herself.
“It didn’t appear as if she was resisting the officers,” Anderson said. “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 child was taken to Rochester General Hospital and later released.
The incident is the second notable case of police brutality in the area in months. Back in March, seven members of the Rochester Police Department were suspended after the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who was pinned to the ground, handcuffed, and had a hood placed over his head during a mental health crisis.
Stay tuned for further updates.
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