The Rochester Police Department is under investigation for the second time in less than a year after body-camera footage was released showing officers handcuffing and pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl, The Associated Press reports.
Officers say they were responding to a family disturbance call on Friday, January 29 where a young girl allegedly said she wanted to kill herself and her mom. Video footage of the incident, released on Sunday, January 31, shows police wrestling the 9-year-old girl to the ground in the snow. One officer can be heard telling the girl, “you’re acting like a child.”
“I am a child,” the young girl responds.
According to Andre Anderson, the Rochester Deputy Police Chief, the girl then tried to run away. Officers handcuffed her and attempted to take her to a hospital in the patrol car. Anderson says the 9-year-old started screaming, “I want my dad,” and resisted the officers’ efforts to get her into the patrol car. Officers then told her this was her last chance before eventually pepper spraying the child.
Authorities say the department has suspended police officers involved in the incident, however it’s unclear how many officers were actually suspended. Officials say the suspension is supposed to last until an internal investigation is complete.
The Rochester community is outraged by the ordeal and is calling for all officers involved to be terminated. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Monday, where he condemned the officers’ actions. “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,” he said.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said Rochester police should no longer be allowed to be involved in mental health crisis. “There is no conceivable justification for the Rochester police to subject a 9-year-old to pepper spray, period,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said Monday.
Last week’s incident comes after the same department was investigated after officers responded to another mental health crisis on March 23, 2020. They encountered 41-year-old Daniel Prude, who was naked and suffering from a mental health episode after ingesting PCP. Officers detained him and placed a spit hood over his head while he was naked in the middle of the street. Prude ultimately suffocated to death.
New York Attorney General Letitia James called the incident with the 9-year-old “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable,” adding that her office was “looking into” the matter.