City of Rochester officials on Sunday released bodycam video from police officers who were at the scene of an incident Friday when a 9-year-old girl was handcuffed, put in a police car, and then pepper-sprayed.
It began with a call to a house on Avenue B Friday afternoon about family trouble, possibly involving a stolen car. Police say while they were at the scene, they were made aware of a child threatening harm to herself and others.
Police say the girl became agitated and for her safety, they handcuffed her and put her in the back of a police car. When she wouldn’t follow multiple commands to place her feet in the patrol car, an officer used a chemical irritant on the girl. She was treated at the hospital and released back to her family.
At a City Hall news conference on Sunday, Mayor Lovely Warren said she is “very concerned about how this young girl was handled by our police department. It is clear from the video that we need to do more in supporting our children and families.”
Warren said that she has a 10-year-old girl and “‘this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see. It’s not. We have to understand compassion, empathy. When you have a child that is suffering in this way and calling out for her dad…I saw my baby’s face in her face.”
Warren said she did talk to the girl’s mother and offered other support and resources from the city.
Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan told reporters, “I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper sprayed is OK, it’s not. I don’t see that as who we are as a department and we’re going to have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”
The RPD, like all police departments across the state, is in the process of coming up with a plan for reform that Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants this spring.
In terms of the recently formed PIC team (Person in Crisis), city officials say that team was not dispatched on Friday because the initial call did not alert them for that need. They said that there were other events at that location that called for a police response, but officials say they are still working on improving how response is made to calls where there may be a mental health need.
Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott and Vice President Willie Lightfoot released a statement over the weekend saying they "are shocked, disappointed, and angered" by the handling of the incident. The Police Accountability Board is also reviewing what happened and on Sunday released a letter it has sent to the RPD chief requesting various types of information about what happened, saying that this appears to have been the second time in a year that RPD officers have handcuffed a child.
Here is the bodycam video (in 2 parts) released by police and City Hall on Sunday. It has been redacted to protect the identity of the 9-year-old.
Warning: this video may be disturbing to viewers and it also contains profanity: