One police officer was suspended and two others were placed on administrative leave in Rochester, New York, days after a video showed them pepper spraying a nine-year-old girl in handcuffs. Body camera footage of the incident show the police officers restraining the child and attempting to get her inside the back of a police car, CNN reported.
A spokesperson from the office of Mayor Lovely Warren said that the Rochester Police Department had immediately removed the three officials from patrol duties, NBC News reported. The officers were suspended on Monday, soon after a meeting between Warren and Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan.
The incident allegedly took place on January 29, when police officials were called to the young girl’s home following a report of “family trouble”, officials said. The officers were allegedly informed that the girl was “suicidal” and was threatening to cause harm to herself and to her mother.
The girl tried to escape from the scene after the law enforcement authorities arrived, Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson told CNN. In the body camera footage, a police officer is seen chasing the girl to provide assistance. After they were finally able to get her into the back of a police car, they took her to an area hospital.
The incident sparked protests in Rochester, with over 200 people taking to the streets and chanting “mental illness is not a crime” and “keep your cops/cuffs off of our kids.”
At a news conference earlier this week, Herriott-Sullivan condemned the manner in which the young girl was treated, CNN reported. “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,” she said. “I don’t see that as who we are as a department, and we’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”
“It didn’t appear as if she was resisting the officers, she was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital,” Anderson said. “As the officers made numerous attempts to try to get her in the car, an officer sprayed the young child with OC spray to get her in the car.” In the video, the girl is heard crying and calling out for her father.
On Monday, two New York democrats introduced a legislation to prohibit police officials from using chemical agents against minors in the state. “This isn’t how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
Meanwhile, the mother of the young girl has said that she will be taking action against the city and the police department, CNN reported.