WARNING: DISTRESSING VIDEO BELOW
Suicidal 9-Year Handcuffed and Pepper Sprayed
(NY) – The Rochester Police Department is under fire after a video was released showing officers pepper spraying a suicidal 9-year old girl. According to CNN, “The officers were told the girl was ‘suicidal’ and that she had ‘indicated that she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom,'” the deputy chief explained.”
The city does have a mental health crisis team, but because the child included threats against the mother, they were not asked to respond. Instead, approximately nine officers showed up to handle a child. NINE officers for one small girl.
Officers are Not Trained to Deal with Mental Health Issues
This incident happened last week, but the video was just now released. The child in the video is in obvious distress. She’s crying hysterically for her father and resisting attempts by officers to put her in the police car. The officers are doing a poor job of trying to calm the child and communicate with her. At one point, while one officer is trying to speak to her, another male officer aggressively says, “Get in the car. Get in the car now!” None of them are showing very much patience or understanding toward a terrified child, but the one demanding she get in the car is speaking to her the same way he would a criminal.
The officers handcuff the child and sit her in the patrol vehicle but can’t get her to put her feet in the car. The male officer says, “You’re acting like a child,” to which she responds, “I am a child.” Yes, she is a child and it would have been wise if the officers had taken that into account. The female officer attempts to be more reasonable, but her annoyance is evident in her voice. She then ruins her own efforts by saying “This is your last chance otherwise pepper spray’s going in your eyeballs.” The child is already in distress and the officer chooses to threaten her. Again, this is how officers are trained to act with criminals and it’s why they have no business dealing with mental health crises that do not involve weapons.
When the child gets hysterical over the possibility of being pepper sprayed, the male officer says, “Just spray her.” Both the male and the female officers take out their pepper spray and begin shaking the cans adding to the child’s distress. The male is the one who pepper sprayed the handcuffed child.
Note: I believe the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has a policy against pepper spraying a person who is handcuffed. Even the BCSO acknowledges how inappropriate that is.
Police Union Jumps to Officers’ Defense
It’s situations like these that make people want to reimagine the way police departments work. But it’s the responses of police unions that show how out of control police unions have gotten. Rather than just shut up, the majority of police unions defend their members no matter how indefensible the officer’s actions were. In the pepper spraying of the young girl, the Rochester police union president, Mike Mazzeo, gave a press conference in which he defended the officers. In the second video below, a reporter asks the union president, “You talk about the psychological impact on the officers, but what about the psychological impact on the 9-year old girl who had to deal with this traumatic situation?” Rather than answer the question, Mazzeo immediately redirects to how the mother treated the child.
Of course he can’t answer the question honestly. We have only to watch the video to see that the officers compound the distress the girl was under by inflicting more abuse on her. The male officer could easily have reached into the vehicle, grabbed the girl by her shoulders, and pulled her further into the car. The officers made a mess of the situation and a young girl, who was already in crisis, paid the price. If anyone thinks that officers are not capable of showing restraint when they want to, I encourage you to watch this Youtube Video.
There are two videos below. The first is the young child being pepper sprayed. The second is the police union president defending the officers’ actions.
WARNING: DISTRESSING VIDEO
“He made a decision there that he thought was the best action to take. It resulted in no injury to her."
— Rochester police union president Mike Mazzeo on the officer who pepper-sprayed a 9-year-old girl
— Democrat & Chronicle (@DandC) February 1, 2021