The 9-year-old Black woman sat handcuffed within the backseat of a police automobile, distraught and crying for her father because the white officers grew more and more impatient whereas they tried to wrangle her totally into the car.

“This is your last chance,” one officer warned. “Otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs.”

Less than 90 seconds later, the woman had been sprayed and was screaming, “Please, wipe my eyes! Wipe my eyes, please!”

What began with a report of “family trouble” in Rochester, New York, and ended with police treating a fourth-grader like a crime suspect, has spurred outrage as the newest instance of legislation enforcement mistreatment of Black individuals.

As the U.S. undergoes a new depending on police brutality and racial injustice within the wake of George Floyd’s loss of life final May, the woman’s remedy illustrates how even younger kids should not exempt.

Research exhibits Black kids are sometimes seen as being older than they’re, and usually tend to be seen as threatening or harmful. Advocates have lengthy mentioned that results in police treating them in methods they wouldn’t dream of treating white kids. In some instances it has led to fatalities just like the killing of Tamir Rice, a Black 12-year-old shot by a white police officer in Cleveland in 2014.

Youtube video thumbnail

“Black children have never been given their opportunity to be children,” mentioned Kristin Henning, legislation professor and director of the Juvenile Justice Clinic and Initiative at Georgetown Law.

A research revealed within the journal Pediatrics in late 2020 discovered Black kids and youngsters had been six occasions as more likely to die from police gunfire as white kids. It analyzed knowledge from police use of pressure in conditions involving younger individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 from 2003 to 2018.

“Black children have really been seen as older, more culpable, less amenable to rehabilitation and less worthy of the Western notions of innocence and the Western notions of childhood,” Henning mentioned.

The headlines from Rochester had been deeply private for Mando Avery, whose 7-year-old son was hit by pepper spray from a police officer aiming at another person throughout a protest in Seattle final summer time. The spray left her son’s face and chest painful and swollen from chemical burns for a number of days, and even required a go to to the emergency room.

He has since had nightmares and now fears police. Small issues can carry again dangerous recollections, like utilizing a spray bottle to do his hair.

“Their innocence goes away much, much sooner,” he mentioned. “What kind of temper tantrum leads to handcuffing a child?”

In the Rochester case, the woman’s mom known as police on Jan. 29 after an argument together with her partner and mentioned she requested officers to name psychological well being companies when her daughter grew more and more upset.

But police physique digital camera video exhibits solely officers on the scene, first handcuffing the woman’s fingers behind her again after which rising more and more impatient as they tried to get her into the police automobile, culminating within the pepper spray.

There’s a level within the video when an officer says, “You’re acting like a child!” to which the woman replies, “I am a child!”

The officers have been suspended pending an investigation. More video footage launched Thursday confirmed the wait till an ambulance arrived for the woman.

The case comes months after the high-profile loss of life final spring of Daniel Prude, a Black man present process a psychological well being disaster when his household known as the Rochester police. Officers handcuffed him, then put a hood over his head when he spit at them. As he struggled, they pinned him face down on the bottom, one officer pushing his head to the pavement till he stopped respiratory.

The 9-year-old woman’s mom, Elba Pope, informed The Associated Press she didn’t assume the white officers noticed her daughter the identical manner they might have seen a white baby.

“Had they looked at her as if she was one of their children, they wouldn’t have pepper sprayed her,” she mentioned.

Henning agreed. “This is where the question of race comes into play,” she mentioned. “If that child had looked like one of their little girls, looked like the little child that they tucked into bed, it is far less likely that they would have done that.”

The president of the Rochester police union has mentioned the officers didn’t lack compassion however had been coping with a troublesome state of affairs with restricted sources and had been following division protocol.

New York isn’t the one place the place police remedy of Black kids has been a flashpoint.

In suburban Denver, 4 Black women aged 6 to 17 had been detained by police at gunpoint after they had been wrongly suspected of being in a stolen automobile final yr.

One officer tried to handcuff the 6-year-old, who was sporting a tiara for what was alleged to be a women day trip together with her relations, however the cuffs had been too massive, in keeping with a lawsuit filed by the household.

In North Texas, a white police officer was recorded on video pushing a swimsuit-clad Black woman to the bottom at a pool social gathering in 2015. Later that yr, a sheriff’s deputy at a college in South Carolina flipped a woman to the ground and dragged her throughout a classroom after she refused to give up her cellphone in math class.

In Tamir Rice’s case, the 12-year-old was enjoying with a toy gun in November 2014 when Cleveland police responding to a name pulled up and inside seconds, shot him. When his 14-year-old-sister ran to the scene, she was pushed to the bottom and handcuffed. The officers weren’t indicted.

It’s that historical past that makes Christian Gibbs, a Black father of three daughters, grateful the woman in Rochester wasn’t extra grievously injured — and angered that’s even a fear.

“Thank God she wasn’t killed. … And the fact that we have to say that is already an indictment of the type of treatment that we expect to be doled out, even to little children,” mentioned Gibbs, 46, of Bowie, Maryland.

Holly M. Frye, of South Ogden, Utah, mentioned she has near-daily conversations together with her three kids about find out how to act round law enforcement officials, the identical sort of conversations her mother and father had together with her.

“This sort of aggression toward the Black race has always been in existence, it’s just being recorded now,” she mentioned. “It’s a topic that never leaves our kitchen table, we’re always constantly talking about it.”

While knowledge is scarce on very younger kids’s interactions with police, Black youths are practically 5 occasions as more likely to be incarcerated in contrast with white younger individuals, in keeping with an evaluation by the nonprofit The Sentencing Project.

The incarceration charge for white youth is 83 per 100,000; for Black youths that quantity jumps to 383, The Sentencing Project discovered. While that’s partly as a result of variations in offending, research have discovered youngsters of coloration usually tend to be arrested and extra more likely to face extreme penalties in contrast with their white friends, the report mentioned.

And it’s not simply policing and the felony justice system. Black college students face increased charges of suspension and expulsion from college, mentioned Judith Browne Dianis, govt director of the Advancement Project, which fights in opposition to structural racism.

It’s “the way that our Black children are questioned by adults, with this underlying assumption that they are not to be believed, and they’re not to be trusted, and that they’re always up to something wrong,” she mentioned.

That results in trauma and distrust on the half of Black youth towards the authorities round them, she mentioned.

“There is no ‘Officer Friendly’ for Black kids,” she mentioned.


Hajela reported from Essex County, New Jersey, Whitehurst reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press author Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, New York, contributed to this report.


Hajela is a member of the Race and Ethnicity reporting workforce at The Associated Press.