Outrage Grows Over 9-Year-Old Girl Handcuffed, Pepper-Sprayed by Rochester Police

Released bodycam footage shows Rochester police handcuffing and pepper-spraying 9-year-old girl as she fights and screams for her father. Authorities said they were told the child was suicidal.

Community outrage is growing over graphic police bodycam footage showing a distraught 9-year-old girl being handcuffed and pepper-sprayed as officers try to force her into the back of a patrol car in Rochester, New York.

The child is heard sobbing and screaming, "I want my dad!" as police grapple with her, at one point pushing her into the snow as they try to handcuff her. Police were responding to a family disturbance call, authorities said, and were told the girl was threatening to kill herself and her mother.

The city's mayor and police chief have condemned the violent incident, in which the frantic child can be heard shouting "You're hurting me!" as officers struggle to get her into a cruiser's back seat.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. We’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen,” said Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan at a Sunday news conference.

Both activists and government officials criticized the encounter as being overly aggressive.

Mayor Lovely Warren, who has a 10-year-old daughter, said, “I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see. This is not something that any of us should want to justify, can justify … And it is something we have to change.” 

On Monday, the Rev. Lewis Stewart of United Christian Leadership Ministry called for the immediate suspension of the officers involved. 

"Minors should not be handcuffed. That must be banned," Stewart said. "Children must not be chemically sprayed. That too must be banned." 

The incident renewed focus on the Rochester Police Department, which received scrutiny last year after Daniel Prude, a Black man, whose family reported he was suffering a psychiatric episode, suffocated after officers put a "spit hood" over his head.

His death occurred last March, but it received little public attention until months later, when his family released bodycam footage of the encounter showing the naked man in a road, his hands cuffed behind him and the hood covering his face. The incident sparked protests and the firing of the police chief, who claimed he did nothing wrong.

It is now under state investigation. An autopsy conducted by the coroner's office deemed Prude's death a homicide.

Neither the cops on scene nor the family involved in Friday's encounter has been identified by police. An internal investigation is underway. Like Prude, the girl is Black.

Late Monday, it was announced the officers involved had been suspended with pay pending the findings of the internal probe, WROC-TV reported.

At one point, an officer is heard saying, “You’re acting like a child.” The girl says, “I am a child.” 

New York Mayor Letitia James weighed in Monday on Twitter.

"What happened in Rochester on Friday is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable," James wrote. "Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period.