APA Condemns Pepper-Spraying, Handcuffing of 9-Year-Old Girl by Rochester Police

Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2021 — The American Psychiatric Association (APA) released a statement today on the situation in Rochester, NY, where, as police responded to a family disturbance call, a 9-year-old girl experiencing a mental health crisis was pepper-sprayed, pushed into the snow, and handcuffed by the police. In a body-cam video released Sunday by the Rochester police department she was calling for her father.

“Children should never be treated like this. People in psychiatric distress should never be treated like this,” said APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H. “We condemn the appalling actions of the police on this video. The girl and her family have experienced this violence and are now dealing with trauma, and watching this video is distressing for many others.”

“It is sad and deeply disturbing to see yet another example of police violence in this country, this time directly involving a young child,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A. “APA supports policies that train law enforcement to recognize and appropriately respond to a mental health crisis. The actions in that video underscore the need for that training as well as partnerships among local law enforcement and behavioral health systems.”

For more see APA’s Dec. 2017 Position Statement on Police Interactions with Persons with Mental Illness.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,800 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.

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