ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rev. Lewis Stewart of the United Christian Leadership Ministry called for the investigation of the police officers and reevaluation of their handling of children after a 9-year-old was pepper sprayed by a Rochester police officer on Friday.
“UCLM s calling for the Rochester Police Department to review and reevaluate all policies and procedures involving minors. Minors should not be handcuffed. That must be banned. Children must not be chemically sprayed. That too must be banned,” The Reverend said,
“No one should be disrespected by discourteous police officers. It only escalates a situation. Comprehensive mental health intervention must be made available for crisis situations now and we call upon the officers involved to be immediately suspended without pay and to be thoroughly investigated.”
Officers responded to a residence on Avenue B on Friday and were approached by the custodial parent of a minor. The custodial parent told the RPD that her child was going to cause self-harm to herself and others before she ran away from the residence.
Police say the girl was “agitated when she saw her custodial parent,” the RPD officials said in a press release. “This caused the minor to pull away and kick at officers, which required an officer to take the minor down to the ground.”
Officers say the minor refused to listen to them as they gave her multiple commands to place her feet inside the patrol car. This required an officer to use an irritant on the minor. The minor was transported to Rochester General Hospital under Mental Hygiene Law 9.41. The minor was treated and released to her family.
“In this incident, the failure is clear, and what needs to be fixed is even clearer,” Rev. Stewart said. “The officer who became frustrated and stated ‘just spray her’ obviously demonstrates the inhumanity of some cops when dealing with the lives of Black people.”
This incident continues to highlight the concern of police officers responding to mental health crises. Earlier this year, the City of Rochester launch the Person In Crisis team, designed specifically to respond to 911 calls related to mental health crises.
MORE | 9-year-old pepper sprayed by Rochester police: Why wasn’t new ‘Person in Crisis’ team called?
Police leadership says the 9-year-old girl was suicidal. The police union says it’s not the first time officers had placed her in handcuffs. That, they say, happened during a call last November.
But at no point on Friday did police request the help of experts in mental health emergencies. That fact will likely be part of the internal investigation now underway.
“Let’s get PIC going, let’s get it started up right away. No more waiting on a pilot program,” Rev. Stewart said. “This incident from last Friday highlights the urgency to press forward regarding reimagining and reinventing public safety.”
President of the Locust Club Mike Mazzeo said there was no violation of conduct when a Rochester police officer detained and pepper sprayed a 9-year-old girl on Avenue B on Friday.
“Mike Mazzeo, head of the police union white washed the event and did not in his press conference condemn negative police behavior.”
“Rochester Police Officers should not have engaged this child as though she was a criminal.”
Rev. Stewart also called for a release of the rest of the body camera footage. “Many officers responded to the call but yet we only have body footage from two of the officers involved. So where is the other body footage? We issue a call to have that body footage released.
Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the department is doing an internal review.
The City of Rochester released a statement Monday evening saying officers involved in the incident have been suspended. The city did not specify which officers, or how many.
Mayor Lovely Warren is calling for changes to New York State law that would allow cities to take more immediate action to discipline officers “in cases like this one.”