Childhood trauma expert weighs in on mental impact of 3-year-old watching mother’s arrest

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Watching this body camera footage of Rochester Police Officers arresting a woman, you can hear a screaming child, calling for her mother. At 3 years old, the girl is still learning who she can trust and how to interact with the world, ideas experts say are shaped from early experiences like this.

Sara Fitzgibbons works at the Society for the Protection and Care of Children, dealing with children under 6 who have gone through trauma.

“In these first few years of life is when infants learn who they are,” Fitzgibbons said, “and what to expect from other people in the world.”

Fitzgibbons called the video disturbing. She said she is concerned a child being so close to a situation like this could lead to mental health issues like anxiety down the road.

“We see when children little children, a 3 year-old in this case, are in the face of trauma, in the face of a lot of grownups who are… maybe not holding their needs and their developmental needs in minds,” said Fitzgibbons. “Their brains are in such a rapid stage of development and we know that all the experiences they receive impact them life-long.”

This is the second recent controversial incident involving a young child and the Rochester Police Department, after an 9-year was pepper sprayed by officers. So far, no policy changes have been made when it comes to children, according to department leaders. 

The city’s draft police reform plan, unveiled last month, would end the use of spit hoods and prohibit handcuffing those younger than 12 years old. The department is calling on the City to help make the changes to policing techniques-RPD saying changes are already underway in the ranks.

“It’s important to know the progress we made and to know that we are making progress. Some of the policies we’ll be rolling out is juvenile detention policies. That’s going to be how we handcuff children. How we deal with them. Things of that nature. So, we’ll have a new policy,” said Andre Anderson | executive deputy chief, rochester police department.

Fitzgibbons also suggests for parents at home who are watching this incident, step back and regulate your own emotions so you can talk to your children in a calm manner.

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