26.01.2022

Police pepper spray mum holding toddler

Police pepper sprayed a Black mother and her 3-year-old toddler, after a store owner claimed the woman had stolen an item.

The altercation, in Rochester, New York, was described by the city’s mayor as “disturbing”.

It was captured in a body camera video released by the Rochester Police Department on Friday.

The footage shows the mother telling an officer that she did not take anything from the store, while the owner insisted she had been “arguing with store employees and refusing to leave”. The incident happened on February 22.

In the video, the officer tells the woman that “you gotta stay with me”, while they wait for confirmation from the store owner of what item she allegedly stole.

She then runs down the street with her toddler, and the officer behind the body camera pursues them. He tells the woman as the child cries: “Put your kid down, put your arms right here, stop”.

The struggle continues, with the video showing the woman on the ground, as her toddler — whose face is blurred in the footage — screams for her mother.

The incident ends with the officer pepper spraying her, as a statement from the police department confirmed on Friday.

It added that “the child was not pepper-sprayed or injured during the arrest,” which led to a charge of trespassing against the women, whose name was not released.

Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, the city’s interim police chief, said the officer did follow policy on the day, but admitted that “some things to me aren’t as simple as whether a policy was followed or not”

“Just because we can do certain things, doesn’t mean we should,” she told reporters. “Can we get to the same place by utilising a different strategy?”

The comments come as Rochester’s police department continues to come under fire for its treatment of Black residents during arrests, which recently saw a 9-year-old girl pepper sprayed by officers, who were suspended.

According to the city’s Police Accountability Board, a body created to investigate alleged misconduct by police, the same officers responded to both arrests, NBC News reported. It is not clear what roles they played in the previous incident.

Rochester mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement that the body camera video was “certainly disturbing” and that Ms Herriott-Sullivan was “working to make sweeping” reforms.

“Change will not come until we have the ability to fully hold our officers accountable when they violate the public’s trust,” the mayor added.

According to reports, the police officer involved in the 22 February incident has been placed on administrative leave while an internal investigation is carried-out.

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