The Rochester, New York police department released body camera footage on Friday (March 8) that shows an officer pepper spraying a Black mother who had her three-year-old child in her arms.
The video, which includes a compilation of footage from several body cameras, was captured on February 22, when the woman was accused of shoplifting by a store owner and then stopped by police outside the store. In a video, the woman denies the claims and opens her bag. One of the officers on the scene can be heard telling her, “Oh come on, they said you stole, tell me what you took. I don’t have time for B.S. You better be quick with me.”
According to The Washington Post, when the officer turned away after inspecting her bag, she ran off and officers caught up with the woman and her daughter at a nearby restaurant. Police demanded she put down the child, wrestled her to the ground and pepper sprayed her. Another officer arrives to take the child away, as the woman is still holding on to her child’s arm.
“Can you pull your car over here, because it looks bad that I’m restraining a 3-year-old?” one officer says in a video.
Surveillance video shows an officer arguing with an unidentified bystander who was recording the incident on his cellphone. "I know they got a job to do. I refute none of that, and whatever she did, she has to deal with that. But come on man, she had a baby in her hand," the man says in the video. "What I'm trying to say is when is this s--- going to stop?"
None of the officers or the woman involved have been identified, though one has been put on administrative leave as an internal investigation is pending, according to reports. The woman was reportedly charged with trespassing.
In a statement, police said the toddler “was not pepper sprayed or injured during the arrest.” But the Rochester Police Accountability Board expressed concern given the child’s short distance away from her mother as she was being pepper sprayed, and drew “troubling parallels,” between this incident and one last month involving a 9-year-old Black girl who officers handcuffed and pepper sprayed.
“Both incidents involved Black mothers. Both involved Black children. Both involved Black people obviously in crisis. Both involved officers using pepper spray on or around a Black child,” the Board said in a statement, per The Huffington Post.
City Council President Loretta Scott said the incident was “unacceptable,” per the Democrat and Chronicle. “After viewing this video, I am even more convinced that the current culture, policies and procedures of RPD must be changed immediately,” Scott said.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren called the video “disturbing,” adding, “When incidents like this occur, I am relieved that I ensure body-worn cameras are worn by our police, so that we can see what occurs on our streets and hold officers accountable.”
In addition to these incidents, the Rochester Police Department is still under fire after the police-involved death of Daniel Prude who died last year after officers who were called to a mental health emergency restrained him.
No charges were brought against the officers involved in Prude’s death.
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