Rochester police were caught on video handcuffing and terrorizing a 9-year-old girl with pepper spray while she was in the back of a police car crying for her dad.
Adult police officers who participated in this injustice are claiming that the child’s actions “required” them to use pepper spray on her, even after she was handcuffed and sitting inside the police car. In the video, the child can be heard crying, “I just want my dad” and then screaming in pain when the male officer says, “Just spray her already” and the female officer complies.
I don’t know what this girl’s crime was, if any, but what the officers did to her is beyond reasonable under any circumstances. When a suspect is handcuffed and sitting in the police car, the only thing left to do is close the door and drive to the station. But why were they arresting a 9-year-old in the first place?
According to a Rochester newspaper, Democrat and Chronicle, officers were called to the scene for a domestic disturbance where a parent of the child said they were afraid she would hurt herself or someone else. The child ran and was chased and apprehended by police. They claim they had to tackle the child and handcuff her at the request of the custodial parent. The Democrat and Chronicle reported:
Again, police said the girl refused to listen to police and disobeyed multiple commands to put her feet in the car. “This required an officer to use an irritant on the minor,” police said.
The department didn’t release any requirements or policies that highlighted the need to react in this manner. When asked to provide the policies that “required” the use of an irritant, Rochester Police Capt. Mark Mura said, “The incident is under review at this time. We will comment on this question after all BWC video and procedures have been reviewed.”
A 9-year-old who is terrified, crying, and had just been tackled by grown police officers didn’t want to put her feet in the police car. For that, they sprayed her in the face with burning pepper spray and closed the door as she screamed, “Wipe my eyes, please!”
I have an 11-year-old. If she won’t put her feet in the car, I can simply put them in for her. A 9-year-old isn’t exactly The Hulk. If police in Rochester can’t physically put a handcuffed 9-year-old in a car, then perhaps they should work out more. But should a pre-pubescent child ever be manhandled by police in this way? What purpose does it serve? If she was having a mental episode, that type of action would only make it worse.
What happened to calling in social workers and medical personnel to aid a person in mental distress? After the suffocating death of the mentally ill Daniel Prude, leadership in Rochester claimed they were changing policy when dealing with people suffering in that way. Rochester was supposed to have begun their new process last week.
The city will redirect certain calls made to 911 related to people experiencing mental health and substance crises to a newly formed response team. The team, which operates 24 hours a day, was devised as an alternative response to emergencies where police might have previously been the first on scene.
The city has begun reassessing its response to mental health-related calls after the death of Daniel Prude in March 2020. Prude’s death became public five months later and sparked massive protests, where there were calls for RPD to change how it responds to calls involving mental health distress.
The use of pepper-spray is considered dangerous to children.
“Any chemicals in your eyes, nose or lungs isn’t good, but it’s especially worrisome for kids because their organs are still developing,” Purvi S. Parikh, an immunologist who specializes in pediatric health at New York University Langone Health, said in an interview with North Carolina Health News. “It has the potential of causing long-term effects.”
Not only can children suffer physical effects but according to doctors, they can suffer long-term mental and neurological effects as well from being pepper-sprayed.
Immediate physical effects are only a piece of the puzzle, according to Rohini Harr, an emergency physician who specializes in health and human rights and a professor at the University of California Berkeley.
The mental health effects of being pepper-sprayed as a child “cannot be overstated,” she said.
“Children who are exposed to violence, especially violence on behalf of law enforcement, that has an incredibly chilling effect on that relationship,” said Harr. “It has an incredibly traumatizing effect on children in general to experience violence at young ages.”
According to Warren, the Person in Crisis Team and the Monroe County’s Forensic Intervention Team were not summoned for this call, because “of the type of the initial 911 call. Unfortunately, there were a number events happening at the same time that required a police response.”
“NINE?! How afraid of a handcuffed 9 year old girl were they that they needed to pepper spray her?” Lupien shared on Twitter. “Having been pepper sprayed I can attest that this incident will change her life. There will be accountability for this.”
The following video is incredibly upsetting. Please use caution before viewing because it will ruin your day and possibly all trust in law enforcement.
Rochester police said this handcuffed, 9-year-old girl's actions “required” them to pepper spray her.
Big trigger warning. Horrifying.
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) February 1, 2021
Here’s a Rochester police union boss trying to make this outrageous police action sound reasonable. He didn’t convince me. Rochester police have a big problem, and if the calls to defund them ever gain any traction, you won’t hear me complaining about it.
Rochester police union chief defending the pepper spraying of a 9-year-old girl:
"Had they had to go and push further, and use more force, there's a good chance she could have been hurt worse."
Not sure that's making your case stronger.pic.twitter.com/8BhokISXpo
— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) February 1, 2021