Rochester, NY – Rochester police are on the hot seat again after video was released that showed an officer pepper-spraying a woman holding a toddler (video below).
The incident occurred on Feb. 22 at the Rite Aid store in the 500-block of Portland Avenue, The Evening Tribune reported.
The Rochester Police Accountability Board (PAB) said an officer responded to the drugstore for a report about a woman who was shoplifting and causing a scene in the store.
Rochester Police Interim Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said “the store confirmed she knocked a number of items off of the shelf and refused repeated requests to leave,” The Evening Tribune reported.
An officer stopped the woman who was accused of shoplifting on Clifford Avenue, WXXI reported.
The woman denied the allegations and the officer asked her to wait while another officer confirmed it with the store.
But when the officer took a step away from her, the suspect fled, WXXI reported.
Bodycam showed the officer chased the woman, who was carrying her three-year-old child, and pepper-sprayed her when he caught up with her outside a restaurant.
Rochester police said the child was not pepper-sprayed, WXXI reported.
Surveillance cameras on the business captured the melee that ensued when the woman resisted arrest.
The video showed the woman began fighting with the officer as soon as he encountered her.
She set her child down and was taken to the ground by the officer a second later, just as a second police officer arrived on the scene.
The child was getting hysterical as she watched her mother fight with the officer and tried to intervene.
The first thing the second officer did after he got out of his police car was try to corral the toddler, the video showed.
The video showed her mother continued resisting arrest and managed to pop back up to her feet before the officer could get the handcuffs on her.
When she stood up, she grabbed her toddler’s hand and when the officer tried to take her into custody, a tug-of-war ensued with one officer holding the mother and the other pulling the child away and the child hanging in mid-air between them, the surveillance video showed.
Bodycam video showed the officer tried to console the child as her mother was arrested.
At one point, the officer asked another officer to block the view of him with his car, The Evening Star reported.
“At one point, he says, ‘can you pull your car over here, because it looks bad that I’m restraining a three-year-old?” Rochester City Councilwoman Mary Lupien told reporters after she viewed the videos.
Officers put the child in the back of the police car with her mother after they had the situation under control.
The confrontation occurred less than a month after Rochester police officers pepper-sprayed a handcuffed 9-year-old girl in the back of a police vehicle.
Rochester City Councilman Malik Evans told The Evening Star it was obvious the police department needed a better way to deal with children of people who were being detained.
Lupien complained it didn’t matter if the officer hadn’t sprayed the child directly.
“As we all know from [earlier] protests, pepper spray goes everywhere immediately, so this child was exposed to the gas,” the councilwoman told The Evening Tribune.
The video showed the officers did request the Family and Crisis Intervention Team to respond but they were told that “they haven’t even logged in yet,” the PAB said.
There is a second pepper spray incident involving a child, the PAB reports. This one happened while a mother was holding a 3-year-old child. It happened on Feb 22 on Portland Ave. PAB statement below: pic.twitter.com/0tfuMAo6Fc
— Will Cleveland (@WillCleveland13) March 5, 2021
The review board pointed to the January incident with the 13 year old in handcuffs and drew parallels, The Evening Tribune reported.
The board complained they aren’t even clear about what the Rochester PD’s pepper spray policy is.
“These same policies, practices, and procedures are at issue in the videos we saw last night,” PAB said in a statement, The Evening Tribune reported.
“The City has never provided us with this information or a host of other materials we requested,” the board wrote. “If the City had done otherwise, our investigation and any resulting proposals for change may have prevented this incident from happening.”
The PAB also said that the two officers who arrested the woman with the toddler were also present at the scene when the 13-year-old girl was pepper-sprayed in handcuffs, The Evening Tribune reported.
The officer who pepper-sprayed the child in January has been suspended pending investigation.
Watch the incident unfold in the videos below. WARNING – Graphic Content: