Officers suspended over pepper spraying of 9-year-old

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Officers involved in the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old girl in Rochester, New York, have been suspended, the city announced Monday. The suspensions are effective immediately and will last at least until an internal police investigation is concluded.

“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged, all of our community,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement. “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action.”

Warren said she would “lead the charge” to change these laws to “allow cities to more quickly issue discipline in cases like this one.”

The officers were suspended with pay, on the condition that a suspension without pay couldn’t last more than 30 days without a concluded internal investigation, CBS affiliate WROC-TV reports. The city did not say how many officers were suspended. Earlier reports indicated a total of nine officers and supervisors responded to the report of “family trouble” on Friday.

Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson on Saturday said the girl was threatening to kill herself and her mother. The Rochester Police Department said in a statement that officers tried to force the girl into a police vehicle, but she tried to pull away and kicked at the officers. The department said this “required an officer to take the minor down to the ground.”

Once she was in the back of the car, police said the girl ignored multiple commands to put her feet inside the vehicle, and an officer was “required” to spray her with a chemical irritant. In body camera video released Sunday, prior to the girl being sprayed, and an officer can be heard saying, “Just spray her at this point.”

The girl was eventually taken to a local hospital.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK. It’s not,” Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said at a news conference on Sunday. “I don’t see that as who we are as a department and we’re going to do the work we have to do to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen.”

The police department is conducting an internal review of the incident and Rochester’s Police Accountability Board is also investigating, according to WROC-TV. 

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