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‘I Don’t Have Time for Your B.S.’: Officer Pepper Sprays Black Woman While Her 3-Year-Old Child Cries

Police officers in Rochester, New York are again under fire after multiple body camera and surveillance videos released Friday show at least one officer pepper spraying a Black shoplifting suspect in front of her three-year-old child.

According to the Feb. 22 recordings, police confronted the woman on a snowy sidewalk after a Rite Aid drugstore employee called for help and accused the woman of both stealing merchandise and refusing to leave the premises.

“Did you steal from that store,” an officer said while exiting his police cruiser.

“Oh, come on, they said you stole; what did you take?” the officer quickly said while approaching the woman.

The officer continued to speak over the woman’s protestations that she had done nothing wrong.

“Tell me what you took.  Tell me the truth,” the officer said.  “Okay — I don’t have time for your B.S.”

The woman showed the officer her bags and allowed the officer to look inside for evidence of theft.

The woman said drugstore employees did not tell her what she was suspected of taking.  The sound of the wind blowing against the officer’s body camera microphone makes some of the exchange hard to hear, but the officer appears to attempt to radio dispatch to see if the shopkeepers described any of the items the woman allegedly stole.

“Negative, no description,” a dispatcher said in return.

“Nothing, right?” the woman asked after the officer had subjected her effects to a probing, tactile examination and learned nothing of what she was accused of taking.

“Yeah,” the officer replied.

“Well, we’ve gotta talk with them to see,” the officer said with reference to the Rite Aid.  He told the woman to get in his squad car to accompany him to the drugstore to settle the matter.

“No, sir,” the woman said.

The officer then said the woman would have to stay with him while another officer checked with the store.

The woman then fled, taking her 3-year-old child with her.

Police chased the woman and scuffled with her after catching up with her in a nearby parking lot.  An officer pepper sprayed the woman’s eyes as her child cried.

Officers brought the woman to the ground and cuffed her.

Later, they offered to help her wash her eyes.

“These disturbing incidents prove that the Rochester Police Department needs to fundamentally change its organizational culture,” the Rochester Police Accountability Board said in a statement obtained by the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper. “These incidents also affirm our community’s call to fundamentally reimagine public safety.”

The Rev. Arlene Brown, a member of the city’s Police Accountability Board, told WROC-TV that the search of the woman’s belongings was sufficient for the officer to have ended the encounter.  She accused the officer of being the one who “escalated” the situation.

Stunned bystanders complained that the officers were too aggressive.  Police, in essence, told them to mind their own business.

“F**king get out of here; you’re not helping anything,” one officer said to a bystander who was recording the scene.

The accountability board believes one of the officers involved in this incident was also involved with another recent incident where the police pepper sprayed a nine-year-old child, WROC-TV reported.

The Rochester Police Department released a brief synopsis of the incident.  Though the statement says the incident occurred Feb. 25, the police recordings themselves contain the date of Feb. 22.

“On February 25, 2021 at approximately 4:30pm officers responded to the area of 535 Portland Avenue for the report of a female shoplifter who was arguing with store employees and refusing to leave,” the statement says (as obtained by WHEC-TV). “Once on scene, officers approached a female who matched the description from the initial call. During the investigation and interaction between the officer and the female, a struggle ensued and the female was pepper sprayed and arrested. While this was taking place, her yound child was on scene and with her. The child was not pepper sprayed or injured during the arrest.”

“The female was charged with trespassing and given an appearance ticket,” the statement concludes.  “The officer has been placed on administrative duty until an internal investigation has been completed.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James recently demanded police reforms in Rochester due to the death of Daniel Prude, a naked man who died in a police “spit hood.”  A grand jury declined to criminally indict the officers involved.

Watch WROC-TV’s coverage below:

[Featured image via screen capture from RPD video]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University.  He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now a Senior Editor for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only.  You should not rely on it for legal advice.  Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.  This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.  Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.