On January 29th, 2021, the Rochester Police Department (RPD) responded to a call from Avenue B in Rochester, NY. Law enforcement was called because of a worried parent to a female minor. The call was allegedly related to “family troubles,” according to CNN.
Rochester First reported the parents told RPD that she was worried for the child’s safety and the safety of others. Once bodycam footage was released, RPD offered a statement about the incident.
“The officers were able to apprehend the minor without incident, but the minor became agitated when she saw her parents. This caused the minor to pull away and kick at officers, which required an officer to take the minor to the ground.”
With the minor anxious from the environment, the officers were asked to detain the minor in the backseat of the RPD’s patrol car. According to Rochester First, once detained, the child started to become more “agitated” once she saw her parents.
Things started to escalate when the child allegedly “refused” to listen to “commands” to place her feet inside the car. Because the minor refused, one of the officers unleashed pepper spray onto the minor. The bodycam footage shows the child in clear distress as she repeatedly calls for assistance from her father. Although police claim to restrain her for her “safety,” the footage shows the opposite.
The 9-year-old girl’s struggle caught the attention of activists and city officials on social media. Soon-after, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren made a call-to-action to remove the three officers involved in the brutality. Interim RPD Chief Harriet-Sullivan decided to follow-through with investigative protocols after Mayor Warren made the call-to-action. Herriot-Sullivan soon decided to suspend one officer and place the other two officers on administrative leave. The outcome of the officers will not be determined until a full internal investigation is completed, according to CNN.
Although the child’s race and identity have not been released to protect her and her family, there are still growing questions on why the powerful stimulant was used on an innocent child.
In response to the mishandling of the situation, New York State Sen. Samra Brouk proposed to ban law enforcement from chemical stimulants on people under the ages of 18, according to WBUR. Although the act to restrain the child was used as protection. The mother of the 9-year-old claimed that RPD did not inform her of the use of pepper spray. Until the following day.
The excessive force by RPD for those experiencing mental health crises has come to light in recent months.
The outrage surfaced due to the heartbreaking death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died last March at the hands of Rochester law enforcement. Prude experienced a mental health episode and needed support. Still, officers responded by pinning him to the ground and placing a hood over his head.
Recent calls for defunding the police are more apparent as more cases surface, showing the explicit lack of training on the city and its police department. Prude’s death was not made public until several months later. Several members of the Rochester Police Department command staff were terminated or left the department.