ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The mother of the 9-year-old girl who was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by a Rochester, New York, police officer on Jan. 29 filed a notice of claim against the city and police department Tuesday.
That means the mother is intending to sue based on an alleged violation of her daughter’s constitutional rights and as a result of the “infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, and any other claims” that day.
The woman originally called 911 due to a “vehicle dispute” at her home, the notice of claim stated. After police arrived, her daughter ran outside and the mother requested the help of officers, because the daughter was “upset about her mother and step-father arguing,” the claim said.
According to police, the daughter was threatening to harm herself and her mother.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, part of the USA TODAY Network, is not publishing the name of the mother to protect the identity of the 9-year-old child.
The mother informed the officers her daughter “should be given some mental health assistance,” the claim said.. In total, the city released 16 minutes of redacted footage.
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In an attempt to subdue and calm the child, officers took her to the ground, handcuffed, and put her in the back of a police vehicle. When the child refused to put her feet inside the car, an officer sprayed an irritant, pepper or OC spray, in her face.
The mother claimed her daughter was “forcefully handcuffed.” She said her daughter was hurt as officers pulled her arm behind her back. One officer said she was going to pepper-spray the child but dropped the canister in the snow before doing so, the claim said.
Another officer did pepper-spray the child. The girl was detained under the state’s mental hygiene law. She was taken to Rochester General Hospital, treated, and then released to the custody of her mother.
“Police never told the mother that the child was pepper-sprayed or that they struggled with the child, handcuffed her, and arrested her,” the claim alleged.
Attorneys for the mother said police officers acted in a “wanton, reckless and malicious” manner.
The daughter has suffered mental anguish and psychological trauma from the incident, the claim said.
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In its initial press release, police said the officer was required to use pepper spray in this incident. But when asked about policies dictating a situation like this, a department spokesman wouldn’t comment on procedure and directed media to consult the department’s general orders. The general orders do not offer guidelines for restraining or using chemical agents like OC spray on juveniles, but RPD General Order 335 signed into effect Jan. 8 does have guidelines for what officers are required to do if they have used a chemical agent on a restrained subject, including checking if they need medical attention.
Inv. Mike Mazzeo, president of the Rochester Police Locust Club, the union representing uniformed police officers, said officers acted appropriately at the scene.
Mayor Lovely Warren said Monday the officers involved should be suspended. The department suspended one officer with pay and put two others on administrative leave. The officers’ names have not be released.
Many in the community have expressed outrage over the incident, especially coming on the heels of the death of Daniel Prude in March 2020 while in police custody. Activists and concerned community members marched Monday to a police substation in Rochester.
They vociferously voiced their displeasure, called for the firing and prosecution of the officers involved, and demanded systemic changes within the police department.
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