Pepper sprays are conventionally associated with single women trying to ward off perverts, a safety net while commuting back from work late hours or while traveling alone.
When the footage showing Rochester Police pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl went viral, it not just outraged many, but made several feel sick to their stomach. Was it really necessary?
The police in Rochester released two body camera videos on Sunday while the officers were trying to restrain and control a distraught nine-year-old girl. The girl was handcuffed and sprayed with what the police calls a "chemical irritant" in order to handle the girl.
In the video, as the background noise, the girl's frantic screams for her father can be heard while the officers are trying to restrain her and force her into a patrol car. But the girl manages to pull away and kick the officers. This is when the police claims, the girl required an officer to take her down to the ground and for which the 'irritant' was sprayed in the girl's face. It must be noted that the girl was already handcuffed at this point.
No defending the action
The police say they did this for the minor's safety and at the request of the custodial parent on scene. A total of nine officers and supervisors responded to the report of 'family trouble' on Friday. At the news conference that followed on Sunday, Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson described the girl as 'suicidal.' He said, "She indicated she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom."
Police Chief Cynthia Herriott Sullivan later told the reporters that the 'irritant' was a pepper spray. She also did not defend the police action and their way of handling the child. "I'm not going to stand here and tell you that for a nine-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is ok. It's not." She added, "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 girl was later taken to the hospital and given the care she needed before being returned to her family. Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren expressed her concern to the reporters over the child that was harmed during this incident. She also said she's a mother herself and this video was not anything one wanted to see.
Questions galore amidst the public fury
Many took to revisit the facts, more than one officer and one child who was already handcuffed. How necessary it became to pepper spray her to take the child on the ground? Many raised objections over whether police should be handling mental health issues in the first place?
"Big bad policemen can't handle a 9-year-old girl? They should look for a different career. So much for protect and serve," wrote a user.