UPDATED: 7:15 a.m. ET, Feb. 2:
Three officers involved with the pepper-spraying of a handcuffed 9-year-old Black girl have been suspended from the Rochester Police Department after uproar following the release of bodycam video from the incident last week.
The still-unidentified officers responded to a call from the little girl’s home on Friday over concerns about her wellness and a family dispute. But it was their decision to restrain her with handcuffs and use pepper spray on her that ultimately got them suspended.
The suspensions were announced after protesters demanded justice for the little girl.
Other protesters recalled past instances of unnecessary violence against Black suspects, including Daniel Prude, who died in March because of how the Rochester Police Department responded to his mental illness episode.
State officials got involved and admonished the Rochester Police Department, NBC News reported.
“This isn’t how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
“What happened in Rochester on Friday is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period. My office is looking into what transpired and how a child was ever subjected to such danger.”
The recent video of police in upstate New York using pepper spray against a handcuffed 9-year-old girl draws attention to a pattern of disproportionately harsh and violent punishment against Black girls from law enforcement. Officers with the Rochester Police Department are shown on bodycam video resorting to using the chemical spray against the little girl, later claiming their actions were “required.”
The little girl can be heard on the video repeatedly screaming that she was being hurt and desperately pleading for her father: “I want my dad”
The unfortunate police encounter took place Friday after the officers responded to a call of a family dispute at the girl’s home. Police said the little girl was suicidal and her mother told an officer that she feared her daughter would harm herself, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
After the police apprehended the little girl, the bodycam video shows her mother approaching and the two getting into an argument. That’s when the girl was handcuffed.
The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported:
“Officers then tried to put the girl in the back of a patrol car, at which point she pulled away and kicked at them. In a statement Saturday, they said this action ‘required’ an officer to take the girl down to the ground. Then, they said, ‘for the minor’s safety and at the request of the custodial parent on scene,’ the child was handcuffed and put in the back of a police car as they waited for an American Medical Response ambulance to arrive.”
But when the girl reportedly refused to put her feet in the vehicle, that’s when “A Rochester police officer was then “required” to spray an ‘irritant’ in the handcuffed girl’s face.”
Two separate bodycam videos were released Sunday. They follow below.
This is the latest instance of apparent egregious police tactics against an unarmed Black person.
In March, Rochester police killed Daniel Prude, who was nearly nude at the time. Prude, who was asphyxiated to death, was suffering from mental illness episode. But police responded by placing a hood over his head and pushing his face into the ground for two minutes.
Friday’s ugly episode in Rochester draws attention to the trend of police violence against Black girls, in particular.
It was only on Tuesday when a school resource officer in Florida was seen on video body-slamming a girl student to the ground and leaving her unconscious.
In that case, the girl — Taylor Bracey, a 16-year-old student at Liberty High School in Kissimmee — was also handcuffed.
In both cases, neither Bracey nor the 9-year-old girl in Rochester were armed or posed any real physical threat to the officers involved. And yet, in each instance, police readily resorted to harsh forms of punishment.
Violence and harsh punishments against Black girls, in particular, is a form of racism, Monique Morris, president of National Black Women’s Justice Institute told USA Today in 2019. That treatment has real-life consequences, Morris warned.
“They’re not allowed just to be and learn and heal and be girls,” Morris said. “We see this criminalization of black girl joy that leads to them feeling as if they are culpable even if they are not.”