A Rochester police officer has been suspended while two other officers have been placed on administrative leave after a Jan. 29 incident that resulted in the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old girl.
Nine officers in total were on the scene during the incident, however only three will receive punishment, according to a news release Monday from the Rochester police interim chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan.
A prior release from the city said the decision was made after Mayor Lovely Warren had met with Herriott-Sullivan, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports.
“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged, all of our community,” Warren said.
“Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action. I will lead the charge that these laws be changed as part of our response to the Governor’s Executive Order 203. And, we will be asking our state legislators to join me, and make numerous changes in Civil Service Law that would allow cities to more quickly issue discipline in cases like this one.”
The three officers will remain on full pay, per state civil service law.
Body camera footage of the disturbing incident has angered many in the local community leading to calls for accountability.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, police officers were called to a home responding to “family trouble.” The woman who reportedly called them told police that she feared her child would harm herself or others. The unidentified girl ran away from home, but police say when they tried to take her into custody, she pulled away and kicked at officers.
Officials say that at the request of the custodial parent at the scene, the officers then handcuffed the child and put her in a squad car while awaiting an ambulance to come.
As she resisted, an officer used “an irritant on the minor,” police said.
The body camera footage shows the officer following the girl down a snowy street and she argues with another adult, apparently her mother, saying a domestic violence incident took place between her and an adult male, who the girl says is her father. The woman tries to force the girl to go back home, but she refuses.
Subsequently, another officer arrives on the scene and the police try to put her in the squad car. The girl screams for her father. During the struggle, the bodycam is knocked off one of the officers, but is still working and recording from the ground.
One of the officers can be heard telling the girl, “you’re acting like a child,” to which she responds: “I am a child.”
The child, mother and father have not been identified.
(Photo by Joshua Rashaad McFadden/Getty Images)