Police officers in Rochester, New York handcuffed and pepper sprayed a 9-year-old girl, multiple outlets have reported. According to Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson, the incident occurred on Wednesday (Jan. 27) when cops were responding to a call about “family trouble.”
On Sunday (Jan. 31), the police department released two body camera videos of the incident, which showed the child being restrained and handcuffed. The girl repeatedly cried out for her father as police forced her inside the back of a cop car. When she refused to get into the car, police pepper sprayed the child.
“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,” Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said during a press conference on Sunday. “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.”
According to police, officers had been told the girl was “suicidal” and had “indicated that she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom.” Cops were trying to get her into the police car to take her to the hospital when she “thrashed around” and tried to run away.
“It didn’t appear as if she was resisting the officers; she was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital,” Anderson said. “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.”
Video shows the young girl crying and screaming before officers pushed her face into the snow-covered ground and handcuffed her. One officer can be heard saying, “You’re acting like a child,” to which the girl replies, “I am a child!”
A female officer can also be heard threatening her with pepper spray, saying, “This is your last chance; otherwise pepper spray’s going in your eyeballs.”
Shortly after, another officer says, “Just spray her at this point.”
According to police, the girl was taken to the Rochester General Hospital and released after the shocking incident. In a press conference, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren responded to the disturbing footage.
“I have a 10-year-old daughter. 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,” she said. “We have to understand compassion [and] 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.”
Warren said she had spoken with the child’s family and ensured that the city’s Person in Crisis mental health department would offer them support.
“It is clear from the video that we need to do more in supporting our children and families,” she added.
Anderson said on Sunday he was “not making any excuses” and claimed the department is working on “a culture change.” The Rochester Police Accountability Board is currently reviewing the incident.
“Our community needs to see exactly what happened on Avenue B,” the board said in a statement. See the disturbing video below.