Rochester Mayor Suspends Police Officers Who Pepper-Sprayed 9-Year-Old Girl


Rochester, N.Y., police officers involved in restraining and pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl last Friday were suspended Monday by order of Mayor Lovely Warren “at a minimum” until the conclusion of an internal police investigation.

“Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action,” Warren said in a statement.

The suspensions came after city officials released police body-camera footage showing the encounter between officers and the girl.

Officials said that police were responding to a family disturbance and that the girl was suicidal and upset. They said officers detained the minor to assist her, and they were trying to get her to move fully inside a police vehicle.

The video, released Sunday, shows the girl crying and begging for her father. Officials have not identified the girl. The number of officers suspended and their names have also not been released.

The incident renews scrutiny on the city and its police department following the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man with a history of mental illness who died of asphyxiation after an encounter with officers in March.

Details of Prude’s death were not made public until months later, leading to protests in the city.
Several members of the Rochester Police Department command staff were terminated or left the department.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not,” interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

She vowed to continue to do the work to implement reform within the department to ensure incidents like this do not happen in the future.

A domestic disturbance police call

“I’m not making any excuses for what transpired,” Rochester Executive Deputy Chief Andre Anderson said Sunday as he described the incident.

He said police responded to a call Friday about “family trouble” at a residence in northern Rochester just before 3:30 p.m. The girl said she wanted to kill herself and her mother, Anderson said, and officers at the scene “made an effort to try to secure her.” He said her mother also was involved.

An officer decided to try to move the child to a police vehicle so that she could be transferred to a hospital, Anderson said, but the child “thrashed around.”

“From what was observed, it didn’t appear as if she was resisting the officer,” Anderson said. “She was trying not to be restrained to go to the hospital.”