The Rochester Police Department had better gather their coins.
A woman whose 9-year-old daughter was handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by Rochester cops last month recently notified the city and police department that she plans to sue. According to CNN reports a notice of claim states that Elba Pope, the girl’s mother, will seek damages due to “mental anguish and psychological/emotional distress and trauma” and “physical injury and substantial pain,” as well as coverage for any future required medical treatment and mental health care. The notice, which CNN obtained from family attorney Lorenzo Napolitano, states that on the afternoon of January 29 Pope’s daughter ran out of her home because she was “upset about her mother and stepfather arguing.
Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson told reporters officers were called to the area after a report of “family trouble.” The deputy chief said officers were told the girl was “suicidal” and had “indicated she wanted to kill herself and she wanted to kill her mom.” After attempting to flee officers, she was chased and police attempted to put her in one of their vehicles. When her mother arrived to the scene officers decided to remove the child and take her to a local hospital, but she refused to get into the police vehicle. Body cam footage showed the girl crying out for her father as she was pepper sprayed by officers and handcuffed. She continued to struggle as police once again attempted to get her into the vehicle. One officer chided her, “You’re acting like a child,” to which she responded, “I am a child!”
Pope claims in the notice that she attempted to take her daughter home, but police “intervened and stopped” her. The notice also states that police did not notify Pope about officers’ use of pepper spray and handcuffing or the struggle her daughter had with police officers that was recorded by police body cameras.
“No 9-year-old should be handcuffed. No 9-year-old should be pepper-sprayed. No one’s humanity should be dismissed because of a badge. No human should be treated like this,” Napolitano said in a statement. “Reform is needed. Reform can come, but only if we are willing to listen to this little girl crying out for the protection that she didn’t receive from the Rochester Police.”
In Pope’s notice of claim she explicitly accuses the officers of “wanton, reckless and malicious” conduct and is claiming “negligence, violation of state and federal constitutional rights, infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, excessive force, false arrest, (and) false imprisonment,” and the scope of the claim is not limited to those allegations.
Pope’s notice is in compliance with New York law, which requires the plaintiff to prepare and serve a formal notice explaining the nature of their claim before filing a lawsuit for damages against a city.
Since the incident, one officer involved has been suspended and two more were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, according to a statement earlier this week from Rochester Chief of Police Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan.
Do you think Pope’s lawsuit will be successful? If you were on the jury, how much would you award her?