'You gave her six minutes to calm down?' We asked experts in policing to watch the RPD video of the 9-year-old girl

'You gave her six minutes to calm down?' We asked experts in policing to watch the RPD video of the 9-year-old girl

Berkeley Brean
Created: February 01, 2021 06:52 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We asked an expert in police training dealing with children and a former RPD chief to watch the RPD body camera videos showing a 9-year-old girl in distress and eventually pepper-sprayed by police and tell us what they see. 

They both say the situation starts out okay, but then it disintegrates, and they can't understand: "Why were police in such a rush?"

Lisa Thurau runs Strategies for Youth, a Boston-area group that trains police in 20 states on how to deal with children in crisis. 

Thurau: "In the officers' rush to control the situation, they harmed the child."

She says she watched the first RPD officer work to understand what was going on. 

Thurau: "He asked that critical question, 'What happened?'"

RPD BWC 1: "What is going on? How can I help you?"

It was very cold and the officer brings that up. 

RPD BWC 1: "Come to my car and let's talk. It's freezing out."

But less than 10 minutes from that point, and six minutes from when she was cuffed, the girl was pepper-sprayed. 

Thurau says she watched an uncoordinated response with mixed messages to a girl calling for her dad. 

For instance, in a matter of minutes, one officer tells the girl "I'll find your dad okay? But you need to sit back" while another officer yells "Get in the car, I'm done telling you! Get in the car."

Thurau's reaction? "Not good."

In her training, Thurau says she teaches police to keep their hands off children in crisis, show empathy and be patient. 

Thurau: "Whose schedule are we on here? This child needed more time. You gave her six minutes to calm down? I defy most adults to have calmed down in six minutes."

Doctor Cedric Alexander is a clinical psychologist and was chief of the RPD in the mid-2000s.

Dr. Alexander: "They attempted to do everything as well as they could up to point that someone had this idea of introducing pepper spray to a 9-year-old."

He says he told his officers to do their job the way they were trained and do it ethically with humanity. 

Dr. Alexander: "There is no way, under no circumstances as such that a 9-year-old child should have been pepper-sprayed."

In the RPD press release from Saturday, it says when the girl didn't obey police commands, "This required an officer to use an irritant on the minor."

Conor Reynolds, Executive Director Rochester Police Accountability Board: "And I think it's important for the community to understand why the Rochester Police Department believes the officer was required to do what they did."

Brean: "And is that something the PAB is going to get to the bottom of?"

Reynolds: "That's our plan."

The Rochester Police Accountability Board says when it's done reviewing the case and RPD policies it will issue recommendations. 

Reynolds: "And I can tell you we'll be making some recommendations about the handcuffing of children and the pepper-spraying of children. And I imagine those recommendations will be to stop those things."

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