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Rochester police handcuffed, pepper-sprayed 9-year-old girl, body cam video shows

Rochester Body Cam footage
Posted at 2:05 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 07:46:43-05

Police in Rochester, New York, have opened an investigation after body-worn camera footage released Sunday shows a young girl — who was handcuffed at the time — being pepper-sprayed by police officers.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren on Sunday directed police chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan to open an investigation into the incident upon the release of the videos.

Warren also directed the police to suspend the officers involved in the incident.

The incident, which occurred on Friday, reportedly involved a 9-year-old girl, according to Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, NBC News and CBS News.

According to CNN, the incident began when police were called over reports of "family trouble." The news outlet adds that officers were told the girl was "suicidal" and had expressed that she wanted to harm her mother and herself.

The video released Friday shows the moments after officers arrived on the scene. It's not clear what happened between when officers arrived on the scene and when the video started rolling.

The body cam video shows officers trying to put the girl in a cruiser to take her to the hospital. Video shows the girl resisted and yelled as the officers tried to place her in the car.

At one point, officers placed the girl in handcuffs.

"You're acting like a child," one of the officers said.

"I am a child," the girl yelled in response.

The video later shows officers deploying pepper spray or another chemical irritant. Rochester Deputy Police Chief Claire Anderson said Sunday that the "effects of that didn't work."

The girl was eventually taken to Rochester General Hospital and released.

"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," Warren said, according to CNN. "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."

"This is not about lack of compassion or empathy," said Mike Mazzeo, the president of a local police union. "We're dealing with a very difficult situation and what officers are confronted with and face and the very limited resources that are out there.

"... it's not TV, it's not Hollywood. We don't just have a simple put someone in handcuffs and have them comply," he said.

The incident comes just over a year after the death of Daniel Prude, a man who died in police custody as he suffered a mental health crisis. Video of that incident, which occurred March 23, was not made public until September. The Rochester Police Chief at the time, La'Ron D. Singletary, retired amid protests stemming from the video.

In a statement tweeted Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James said that "drastic reform" is needed at the city's police department.

“What happened in Rochester on Friday is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable," James said. "Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period. My office is looking into what transpired and how a child was ever subjected to such danger. It’s clear that drastic reform is needed at the Rochester Police Department to ensure that mental health professionals and child advocates are actually responding to people in need and when minors are involved, and that this type of behavior never occurs again.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also released a statement.

"As a human, this incident is disturbing and as a father, it's heartbreaking—this isn't how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl," Cuomo said. "Across New York and around the country, the relationship between police and the communities they serve is clearly not working, which is why we launched a statewide effort to bring everyone to the table and make real, lasting reform. Rochester needs to reckon with a real police accountability problem, and this alarming incident demands a full investigation that sends a message this behavior won't be tolerated."