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New York Officer on Leave After Pepper-Spraying Black Mother In Front of Her Child

New York Officer on Leave After Pepper-Spraying Black Mother In Front of Her Child

A Rochester, New York, police officer has been placed on administrative leave after using pepper spray on a Black mother who was suspected of shoplifting in a February incident, the police department said at a Friday press conference. Video footage of the incident recently made public shows that the officer used pepper spray on the woman and pinned her to the ground in front of her toddler.

The Police Accountability Board in Rochester is now calling for major changes to be made to the city’s police department amid the Friday release of footage of the northeast Rochester encounter.

A Rochester, New York, police officer has been placed on administrative leave after using pepper spray on a Black mother who was suspected of shoplifting in a February incident, the police department said at a Friday press conference. Video footage of the incident recently made public shows that the officer used pepper spray on the woman and pinned her to the ground in front of her toddler. The Police Accountability Board in Rochester is now calling for major changes to be made to the city’s police department. This comes after the release of footage of the encounter.

As the woman started to deny the accusation, the officer said, “I don’t have time for your BS, so you better be quick with me.”

The woman set the child down and partially emptied her purse to prove to the officer that she had not stolen anything.

The officer told the woman to get in his squad car with the child so that they could return to the store and ask the employee that nothing was stolen, but the woman took off running away from the officer.

When the officer caught up to the woman outside of a nearby restaurant, he forced her to the ground, while the toddler began to cry. The officer’s body camera appears to have fallen on the ground, and captured the audio, but there’s no footage of the continued struggle as the child’s screams grew louder.

The woman got up and a physical struggle over the child ensued before she was pepper sprayed and taken to the ground again according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

Although the child wasn’t directly sprayed, officials expressed concern that she could still may have been exposed.

“As we all know from (earlier) protests, pepper spray goes everywhere immediately, so this child was exposed to the gas,” Rochester City Council member Mary Lupien said after reviewing the video footage. She added that the toddler was “suspended between two people,” when the mother was holding the child’s hand while the officer was grabbing her arm.

In a statement, the police department stated, “The child was not pepper sprayed or injured during the arrest.”

“These disturbing incidents prove that the Rochester Police Department needs to fundamentally change its organizational culture,” a statement from the city’s Police Accountability Board said. “These incidents also affirm our community’s call to fundamentally reimagine public safety.”

The woman wasn’t charged with shoplifting, however, was charged with trespassing and given an appearance ticket. Employees at the store confirmed “she knocked a number of items off of the shelf and refused repeated requests to leave,” Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan confirmed.

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