ROCHESTER, N.Y. (NewsNation Now) — Rochester police officers involved in the pepper-spraying of a 9-year-old have been suspended, city officials announced Monday.
The suspensions are in effect until, at minimum, the results of the internal investigation into the events that transpired Friday are concluded.
City officials said the officers were suspended with pay, on the condition that a suspension without pay couldn’t last more than 30 days without a concluded internal investigation. They said the Rochester Police Department was still working to determine the exact amount of officers facing suspension.
“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged, all of our community,” said Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in a Monday statement. “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action. I will lead the charge that these laws be changed as part of our response to the Governor’s Executive Order 203. And, we will be asking our state legislators to join me, and make numerous changes in Civil Service Law that would allow cities to more quickly issue discipline in cases like this one.”
City officials add “the suspensions, by law and contract, begin the legal process to fully determine what happened and what discipline needs to be enforced in response.”
Officers responded to a residence on Avenue B Friday and were approached by the custodial parent of a minor. The custodial parent told the RPD that her child was going to cause self-harm to herself and others before she ran away from the residence.
Police say the girl was “agitated when she saw her custodial parent,” the RPD officials said in a press release. “This caused the minor to pull away and kick at officers, which required an officer to take the minor down to the ground.”
Officers say the girl refused to listen to them as they gave her multiple commands to place her feet inside the patrol car. This required an officer to use an irritant on the child. She was transported to Rochester General Hospital under Mental Hygiene Law 9.41, treated and released to her family.
RPD is conducting an internal review of the incident, as is Rochester’s Police Accountability Board. Interim Rochester Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said Sunday protocol and policies are currently being reviewed.
“Please know this process is continuous for us,” Herriott-Sullivan said Sunday. “It’s never going to end. This is the kind of thing we’re always going to be vigilant about, evaluating who we are and what we do as a department.”
Rochester Police Union Chief Mike Mazzeo said the officers didn’t break any rules.
“When it’s determined that she needs help, and there’s a mental hygiene, they have to be restrained,” Mazzeo said. “If that’s not going to be the policy then we need to change them but they have to operate on what they have and what they can utilize.”
“I have a 10-year-old child, so she’s a child, she’s a baby. This video, as a mother, is not anything you want to see,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said a Sunday press conference.
State legislators are proposing legislation that would prohibit the use of chemical agents like pepper spray against minors by law enforcement.
State Sen. Samra Brouk (D-55) and Assemblymember Demond Meeks (D-137) say the legislation would prohibit the use of chemical agents, including pepper spray and tear gas, by police officers against children under the age of 18.
The RPD has faced scrutiny since the death of Daniel Prude last year after officers from the department put a mesh spit hood over his head and pressed his face into the pavement. Investigations by the attorney general’s office and Rochester City Council are ongoing into the matter of Prude’s death.
NewsNation affiliate WROC contributed to this report