Police in Rochester, New York, are investigating a confrontation caught on video that shows an officer pepper-spraying a 9-year-old Black girl while responding to a report of “family trouble,” officials said on Jan. 31.
“This is not something that any of us should want to justify,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren told reporters, adding that she saw “her baby’s face” when she looked at the 9-year-old girl. Warren said she has ordered the police to conduct an investigation, NBC News reported.
“I have a 10-year-old child, so she’s a child, she’s a baby. This video, as a mother, is not anything you want to see,” Warren said.
The incident occurred when police were called after a report that the girl was threatening to harm herself and her mother, Deputy Chief Andre Anderson said.
When officers attempted to put the girl into a police car to take her to a hospital, she resisted, kicking one of the officers, according to Anderson.
Two police body camera videos, released by the police department on Sunday, show authorities handcuffing the girl while she calls out for her father and refuses to get in the vehicle.
“You’re acting like a child,” one of the officers said to the girl at one point.
“I am a child,” she responded.
Then, on the videos, the officers are heard saying that they would pepper spray her if she continued to resist. When the girl disobeyed commands to put her feet in the car, one of the officers pepper-sprayed her.
The videos were edited by police and do not show much prior to or after the pepper-spraying.
Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the union representing uniformed officers, asked the public not to rush to judgment before all the necessary information was made public, The Democrat and Chronicle reported.
The response on Twitter was mixed — some calling for police overhaul, others claiming the girl’s parents hold some responsibility.
One person tweeted, “The Rochester PD needs Crisis Intervention Training for all their officers.”
“Training can’t solve this,” another responded. “The solutions are more rigorous hiring standards, firing cops who behave this way and subjecting them to criminal and civil liability. End qualified immunity. Also, half of any civil judgment for brutality should be paid by the police pension fund.”
The parents hold some responsibility, others said on Twitter. “How about we discipline our children better and clearly this girl was being abused by her mom’s boyfriend. So that’s a problem in itself. It’s not the police fault these people weren’t raised right,” the tweet read.
The Rochester police came under fire less than a year ago for a confrontation in which a Black man, Daniel Prude, 41, died while being restrained by Rochester police with a “spit hood” over his head.
Following Prude’s death, the police department’s chief and entire command staff resigned, NBC News reported. The city enacted law enforcement reforms, including moving crisis intervention from the purview of the police.
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Earlier in January, the city of Rochester launched a “person in crisis” response team be used as an alternative response to mental health calls. That alternative was not used during the confrontation with the 9-year-old girl because the initial 911 call didn’t warrant it, Warren said.
“There were a number of events happening at once at this location, all of which required a police response,” she said.