The US city of Rochester has suspended police officers seen in body-camera videos spraying a chemical “irritant” in the face of a distraught and handcuffed nine-year-old girl, officials said on Monday.
The city did not specify how many officers were suspended. The suspensions will last at least until an internal police investigation is completed.
The action was announced as community outrage swelled following the release of footage on Sunday showing officers restraining and scolding the girl, who was screaming for her father.
As a human, this incident is disturbing and as a father, it’s heartbreakingNew York governor Andrew Cuomo
At one point, an officer is heard telling her to “stop acting like a child” to which she cried, “I am a child”.
Police said officers were responding to a report of “family trouble” on Friday.
The police body camera video shows numerous police cars and officers on the snowy scene. After being restrained on the ground, the girl, wearing flowered leggings and a black sweatshirt, asks, “Can you please get the snow off of me? It’s cold”.
“You had your chance,” one officer tells her, while another shouts, “Get in the car now!”
What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged all of our communityRochester mayor Lovely Warren
Mayor Lovely Warren met with interim police chief, Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan, before announcing the disciplinary action.
“What happened Friday was simply horrible, and has rightly outraged all of our community,” Ms Warren said in a statement. “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James said on Monday her office was “looking into” what happened. She called the incident “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”
State governor Andrew Cuomo condemned the officers’ actions.
“As a human, this incident is disturbing and as a father, it’s heartbreaking,” Mr Cuomo said in a statement, adding: “This isn’t how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl.”