A 9-year-old girl was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police officers in Rochester, New York on Friday. The shocking display of abuse was caught on the officers’ body cameras and the footage has since exploded across the internet, with many voicing understandable outrage and calling for an investigation into the officers involved.
The police have stated that the officers responded to a report about “family trouble” and had been told the girl might be suicidal. In the video, the child can be seen struggling as the officers work to handcuff her and place her in their car. Throughout the clip, the girl can be heard calling for her dad and is clearly terrified by what’s happening to her. When she fails to obey their orders to get into the car, the cops pepper-spray her. The girl was brought to a hospital and subsequently released.
The video is difficult to watch and the police officers’ actions are clearly indefensible. They were in no way endangered by the small girl and could have easily defused the situation without violence. They need to be held accountable and stripped of their badges and the girl should be entitled to a massive settlement payment from the department.
The head of the Rochester police union has already defended the officers’ actions and even implied that the girl was lucky to be pepper-sprayed because otherwise the cops might have had to use more physical force and she could have been harmed even worse. This incredibly calloused and bad-faith argument is unfortunately emblematic of the larger problem with police unions. They exist almost solely to insulate officers from the consequences of their actions and regularly prevent bad cops from being removed from the force.
Fixing the way law enforcement functions in America is a massive undertaking, but abolishing police unions would be a great place to start.
Rochester police union chief defending the pepper spraying of a 9-year-old girl:
"Had they had to go and push further, and use more force, there's a good chance she could have been hurt worse."
Not sure that's making your case stronger.pic.twitter.com/8BhokISXpo
— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) February 1, 2021
Now, New York’s Attorney General Letitia James has waded into the discussion of Friday’s incident. She tweeted that she found it “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.” James also said that pepper spray should never be used against a child, something any reasonable person can agree with and yet clearly a moral memo these officers never received.
James revealed that her office is investigating the incident and added that “drastic reform” will need to take place within the Rochester, New York Police Department. While it’s unclear what if any changes will be made and what will ultimately happen to these police officers, it’s good to know the Attorney General is treating this issue seriously.
What happened in Rochester on Friday is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable. Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) February 1, 2021
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