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RPD: Those in traffic stop with handcuffed 10-year-old claimed ‘sovereign citizen status’

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — During a Sunday traffic stop on Route 104, Rochester police say they placed handcuffs on a ten-year-old girl, whom police said “began to pull away from the officers” near the road.

Those in the stopped car, police said, claimed to be of “sovereign citizen status,” and not bound by American laws, with one person claiming diplomatic immunity, a claim police said was not the case.

Police said the traffic stop was the result of an expired inspection, as well as no front license plate, on the stopped car.

Mike Burger, a local lawyer, explained to News 8 there’s a specific set of circumstances that prevent someone from being held.

“There are exceptions where someone can’t be detained, if they have diplomatic immunity, and that’s via treaty with other countries, and there are good policy reasons underlying that,” said Burger.

MORE: RPD says 10-year-old handcuffed for ‘safety of all involved’ during traffic stop on Rt. 104

“Although the police may have the right to handcuff a ten year old girl under extreme circumstances it is absolutely not normal, it is highly unusual and the police should (and would) generally avoid it if at all possible,” Burger continued in correspondence with News 8.

“Without viewing body cam and dash cam video it may be too soon to determine whether that extreme procedure was properly employed here,” Burger added.

Burger also explained that in an extreme circumstance, police can put handcuffs on a child if they determine there is a safety risk. In a statement, police said it appeared an officer handcuffed the child to “assist in controlling the actions of the 10-year-old and for the safety of all involved as cars were traveling down the highway.”

In a press conference about social distancing Thursday, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren spoke about the incident, and called for an investigation.

“I don’t think that handcuffing a child is something that we should do,” said Warren.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has asked the Rochester Police Accountability Board, which no longer has disciplinary powers, to investigate the incident.

Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Locust Club police union, said police at the scene were doing their jobs.

“The officers did everything they could at a split second,” said Mazzeo. “There’s no order, there’s no policy there’s nothing that you can put in place that shows these officers did anything wrong.”

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