Several state lawmakers want to make it illegal to use tear gas and pepper spray on teenagers or children.
State Sen. Samra G. Brouk, D-Fairport, has introduced a bill to prohibit the use of chemical agents by police officers against minors. The legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Senators Leroy Comrie, Liz Krueger, Shelley Mayer, Kevin Parker and Luis Sepulveda. Companion legislation has been introduced in the state Assembly by Assemblyman Demond Meeks, D-Rochester, and is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Sarah Clark, D-Rochester, and Assemblywoman Jennifer Lunsford, D-Fairport.
On Jan. 29, Rochester police officers used pepper spray on a 9-year-old girl while they were trying to restrain her and put her in the back of a police car. The officers have since been suspended while an internal police investigation is completed.
The department said officers were responding to a report of "family trouble." The police body camera video showed 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."
At a recent news conference, Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson described the girl as suicidal. She was eventually taken to Rochester General Hospital and later released to her family.
The day after the incident, the police said the girl disobeyed commands to put her feet in the car. An officer was then "required" to spray an "irritant" in the handcuffed girl's face, the department said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the officers' actions in a statement following the incident.
"As a human, this incident is disturbing and as a father, it's heartbreakingthis isn't how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl," the statement said. "Rochester needs to reckon with a real police accountability problem, and this alarming incident demands a full investigation that sends a message this behavior won't be tolerated."
Brouk's legislation would amend the model law enforcement use of force policy and every use of force policy established to prohibit the use of any chemical agent against a minor, including oleoresin capsicum, pepper spray or tear gas.
"Lack of adequate policies and training, supervision, and accountability systems likely contribute to over-reliance on physical force and chemical agents," Brouk and Meeks wrote in their legislative justification. "We must protect our children from the harmful effects of chemical agents by clearly prohibiting their usage on minors. The usage of chemical agents on minors by police officers is unjustified and should not have a legal backing in New York State. This bill aims to clearly prohibit the use of chemical agents by police officers on minors, and prevent what has happened in Rochester from happening again in the state."