Police in Rochester, New York, have come under fire once again after body-cam footage shows them pepper-spraying a woman who was carrying her three-year-old daughter.
In recent months, Rochester police had come under fire for two previous incidents that raised concerns about their use of force.
The latest incident, which occurred on February 22 and was released on Friday, shows an officer approaching a woman on the snow-covered shoulder of a road and informing her that she had been accused of stealing by a nearby company.
The woman, who is holding her small daughter in one arm, maintains that she did not steal something and shows the officer a portion of her purse.
When the officer refuses to let her go, the woman turns and flees, her child still in her arms. Several officers pursue her, eventually catching up to her and forcing her to the ground.
Police use pepper spray to subdue the woman and push her down to the ground as she struggles to her feet and reaches for her crying daughter.
“Stop. Oh my God, what is wrong with her?” one officer is heard saying of the mother.
According to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper, the child was not actually pepper-sprayed, but officials who saw the video said she may have been exposed.
The video has left the city’s Police Accountability Board, which is made up exclusively of people, “disturbed.”
Shani Wilson, the board’s chair, told reporters that the incident had “troubling similarities” to a late-January incident in which a nine-year-old child was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed.
“Both involved Black people obviously in crisis, both involved officers using pepper spray on or around a Black child,” Wilson said Friday
“The Rochester Police Department must radically reform its organizational culture,” she said.
According to the Democrat & Chronicle, City Council President Loretta Scott said that “the amount of force used, combined with the emotional harm sustained by this girl, was disproportionate to the alleged crime.”
According to the publication, the woman was eventually charged with trespassing, and the arresting officer was put on unpaid leave pending an internal investigation.
In September, Rochester police were attacked after footage surfaced of Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old Black man, being arrested.
Prude was wandering around naked and high on drugs when police placed a hood over his head to keep him from spitting, then left him face-down on the ground until he stopped breathing. He passed away a week later.
Prude’s death was deemed a homicide by a medical examiner, but a grand jury refused to charge any of the officers involved.
The incident was reminiscent of George Floyd’s death in May, when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, killing him.
Floyd’s murder, as well as other Black people killed by police, triggered demonstrations in the United States and around the world.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN