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City suspends police officers involved in pepper-spraying 9-year-old girl

A screen grab from a Rochester Police Department body-worn camera that captured a female officer pepper-spraying a 9-year-old handcuffed girl.
A screen grab from a Rochester Police Department body-worn camera that captured a female officer pepper-spraying a 9-year-old handcuffed girl.

The Rochester police officers involved in using pepper spray on a 9-year-old girl last week have been suspended with pay effective immediately, the city announced in a news release Monday.

Mayor Lovely Warren ordered the suspensions after meeting with Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, the release read. The suspensions are to continue at least until an internal police investigation into the matter is concluded.

A city spokesperson explained that the suspensions were with pay due to contractual obligations between the city and the police union.

On Monday night, a statement from RPD  said that in response to Warren ordering the suspension of officers involved in the pepper spraying of a 9-year-old girl, the police department has immediately removed the three officers involved from patrol duties. One officer was suspended and two officers were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

The incident took place on Avenue B on Friday afternoon, when police responded to the street for a call of "family trouble." 

Portions of video footage taken from two cameras worn by police who responded show the child handcuffed and screaming for her father while officers try to restrain her and put her inside a police vehicle.

"You're acting like a child," a male officer can be heard telling the girl.

"I am a child," she screamed.


After some grappling and trying to put the girl's feet inside the cruiser, a female officer told the girl, "I'm going to pepper-spray you, and I don't want to." The officer later said, "This is your last chance. Otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs."

Thirty-six minutes later, as the sobbing girl continued screaming for her father, the male officer said, "Just spray her at this point."

In ordering the officers suspended, Warren issued a prepared statement saying she would ask state legislators to give executives of local governments more authority to quickly discipline officers.

“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged, all of our community,” Warren said. “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action. I will lead the charge that these laws be changed as part of our response to the Governor’s Executive Order 203. And, we will be asking our state legislators to join me, and make numerous changes in Civil Service Law that would allow cities to more quickly issue discipline in cases like this one.”

The governor's executive order mandated that all municipalities submit plans to the state to reform policing.

The incident has prompted condemnation from the police chief, elected officials, and civil rights organizations alike, and intensified scrutiny on a police force that has been under a public microscope since news of the death of Daniel Prude at the hands of officers surfaced last September.

The suspensions were announced as a planned demonstration was getting under way on North Clinton Avenue. As of 5 p.m., there were roughly 150 protesters marching south toward downtown.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at