The news was all about a Rochester police officer pepper spraying a 9-year-old for refusing to get into the RMP, which is entirely understandable given the climate and that news focuses on that which distinguishes an otherwise commonplace police interaction.
During the incident, which occurred Friday afternoon, officers restrained the girl, pushing her into the snow in order to handcuff her, while she screamed repeatedly for her father, the footage showed.
At one point, an officer said, “You’re acting like a child.” She responded, “I am a child.”
When she refused to sit inside a police car, an officer pepper-sprayed her.
While the use of OC to subdue a child, and “I am a child” might be one of the best and most important replies ever, by a female officer (another data point against the simplistic notion that more diversity on the force will produce less use of force) was wholly unjustified,
On Friday afternoon, officers received a 911 call reporting “family trouble,” and arrived to find the 9-year-old girl dressed in a black hoodie and colorful leggings. She “indicated that she wanted to kill herself, and she wanted to kill her mom,” Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson said on Sunday.
On the surface, this would appear to be a situation far better suited for mental health intervention than police. After all, this was a child, a 9-year-old, and one would, in a better world, expect that she would be adequately, if not better, helped by patience, de-escalation and understanding. Or as Gayle King opined on the morning news with her usual incisiveness, she couldn’t believe that a “grown-ass man” couldn’t handle a 9-year-old without pepper spraying her.
But would things have turned out better with a social worker instead of a police officer? There was a family dynamic at work here that isn’t entirely reflected in the part of the story at the end, the pepper spraying part that most of us agree was outrageous when employed against a child.
There will be outrage. There will be protests. There will be suspensions and recriminations. But as the video reveals, there was more involved than just the improper use of force against a child. And she was a child.
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