APA Condemns Pepper-Spraying, Handcuffing of 9-Year-Old Girl by Rochester Police
American Psychiatric Association
Feb. 3, 2021
APA today denounced the treatment by Rochester, N.Y., police officers of a 9-year-old girl who was pepper-sprayed, pushed into the snow, and handcuffed when they responded to a family disturbance. The girl is believed to have been experiencing a mental health crisis at the time. In a body-cam video released Sunday by the Rochester police department, the girl was calling for her father. According to a New York Times report, an officer told her, “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.
“Children should never be treated like this,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “People in psychiatric distress should never be treated like this. We condemn the appalling actions of the police on this video. The girl and her family have experienced this violence and are now dealing with trauma, and watching this video is distressing for many others.”
According to the Times report, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the officers involved in the spraying would be suspended until the conclusion of an internal investigation. She said state laws and union rules prevented her from taking more serious action, according to the Times. “It is sad and deeply disturbing to see yet another example of police violence in this country, this time directly involving a young child,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “APA supports policies that train law enforcement to recognize and appropriately respond to a mental health crisis. The actions in that video underscore the need for that training as well as partnerships among local law enforcement and behavioral health systems.”
For more information, see APA’s “Position Statement on Police Interactions With Persons With Mental Illness.”