Police officers who handcuffed a nine-year-old girl and sprayed her with pepper spray in Rochester, New York, were suspended Monday amid a wave of outrage at the methods used by US security forces. After meeting with the local police chief on Monday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced that the officers involved will be suspended pending an internal investigation into the episode.
“What happened on Friday was just horrible and it has rightly outraged our entire community,” Warren said. “Unfortunately, state law and union contracts prevent me from taking more immediate and serious action.”
The Rochester police had justified their action by claiming that the girl, whose identity has not been disclosed, was suffering a mental breakdown and was threatening to kill her mother and commit suicide.
“As a human being, this incident is disturbing and as a parent, it breaks my heart,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The NYPD shouldn’t treat anyone like that, least of all a nine-year-old girl.” Cuomo said the relationship between the police and the communities they serve “is clearly not working” and reforms and an investigation into what happened are needed.
The nine officers who came to the scene last Friday reacted by handcuffing the girl. When they were unable to get her into a patrol car, they used pepper spray, according to videos from the cameras that the policemen wore in their uniforms , published on Sunday by law enforcement. The police say they acted in this way to guarantee the safety of the girl, who was taken to the hospital and then handed over to her parents.
The mayor of Rochester promptly condemned the use of force against children and promised an internal investigation into the practices of city police officers. I have a 10 year old boy. It’s a boy, it’s a baby. As a mother, this video is not something you want to see, “she said at a news conference on Sunday.
It is the second time in a year that Rochester police officers have been charged with acts of violence against citizens. In March a black man, Daniel Prude, died after being arrested in that city. Police had put a cloth hood over his head after he spat at officers and claimed he had the coronavirus.
The death of Prude, who was also suffering from a mental breakdown at the time of her arrest, sparked an investigation and mass demonstrations.