The Rochester Police Department—like police departments across the nation—is proving itself to be a microcosm of white America in that it appears to be indifferent to Black trauma and blind to Black innocence.
Earlier this month, The Root reported that a 9-year-old Black girl was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed for seemingly no other reason than because she was panicked and refused to get into the back of a police car before seeing her father who she feared was hurt.
And if you need an even clearer picture of white people’s inability to recognize that a Black child is indeed a child, before she was pepper-sprayed, one officer literally told the girl, “You’re acting like a child.”
Now, previously unreleased police body camera footage of the Jan. 29 incident in Rochester, N.Y., has been revealed and, well, it only further proves that the white cops called to the scene had little to no empathy for a Black child behaving the way children naturally would when confronted with a situation no child should ever be in.
From the New York Times:
A 9-year-old girl is in the back of a police car, handcuffed and crying after being pepper-sprayed amid a struggle with several officers who had been trying to detain her.
“Officer,” she says between sobs to a female officer in the front of the car, “please don’t do this to me.”
The officer’s matter-of-fact reply shows no sign of empathy.
“You did it to yourself, hon,” she says.
The exchange was included in extended police body camera video of the Jan. 29 incident that Rochester, N.Y., officials released on Thursday, offering a fuller look at the troubling episode and touching off a fresh burst of fury over the officers’ treatment of a child in distress.
At an hour and a half, the footage was much longer than an 11-minute version made public shortly after the encounter, which has attracted international attention, widespread condemnation and growing calls for overhauling a police force that was already under scrutiny over the suffocation death of a Black man whose head officers had put in a hood.
The newly released footage shows that the cops threatened the girl with pepper-spray several times before actually spraying her in the face. It also shows the girl begging them not to do it.
More from the Times:
“Listen to me — you’re going to get sprayed if you don’t get in,” one officer says.
“Get in the car,” comes another command. “I’m done telling you.”
“I’m going to pepper-spray you, and I don’t want to,” one officer says. “So sit back.”
“Please don’t,” the girl says.
“This is your last chance, or pepper spray is going into your eyeballs,” an officer says.
A female officer tries to persuade the girl to get all the way into the car.
Soon, one officer, and then a second, can be heard saying, “Just spray her.” Seconds later, one of them does and then shuts the door as the girl screams, “My eye is bleeding.”
In the aftermath, the female officer sits in the front of the car and tells the girl, “You did it to yourself.”
“It’s burning my eyes,” the girl says.
“That’s the point of pepper spray,” the officer says.
People who—like these officers—lose their ability to recognize a child being a child when Blackness is involved will likely see the cops’ threats as warnings that the girl should have heeded, but if officers’ handling of a visibly distraught 9-year-old who is crying and screaming for her father would also be appropriate for interrogating a terrorism suspect, cops might want to rethink the way they protect and serve. (By the way, when I say “terrorism suspect,” I obviously don’t mean white terrorists. Otherwise, the girl would have been served organic food or allowed to vacation in Mexico.)
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo described the new footage as “even more shocking and disturbing” than the clip that was released just after the altercation, the Times reports. He also said the whole incident was “symptomatic of a broader problem,” and that “the relationship between police and communities is damaged and needs to be fixed.”
Mayor Lovely Warren—who previously said that she “directed the chief of police to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of the incident”—said that she continues to “share our community’s outrage for the treatment of this child.”
As we previously reported, one officer involved in the confrontation has been suspended and two others have been placed on leave while the investigation continues. Meanwhile, the girl’s mother is demanding the firing of the officer who sprayed her child and has said she is planning on suing the city over the incident.