LONSBERRY: Nobody Should Profit Off The Pepper-Sprayed Girl


 The “suck my dick” lady wants money.

               And the guy with the cufflinks and the dorsal fin is going to help her get it.

               And the city will write the check. A big, fat, taxpayer-backed check with lots of zeros.

               Cufflinks will take a third, the tax man will take a third, mom will take a third.

               And I don’t have a crystal ball, but I wouldn’t bet on the little girl getting any.

               The handcuffs, she got those. The pepper spray, she got that. The money, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

               Because life seems to crap on this little girl. In a way most of us can’t begin to imagine. In a way that leaves most of us heartsick and some of us in tears. To say that this little girl has gone through hell implies that she isn’t still there.

               And that’s what we ought to be concerned about.

               There are different views on what happened with the police. You either see a problem with it or you don’t. Either way, that’s going to sort itself out. The politicians and the activists and the union boss will all say what they say, and the investigations will find what they find. Cops will either get exonerated or they will get crucified. Policies will either get changed or they won’t.

               Time and the political process will work that out.

               And a 9-year-old girl will still be where she was. And whatever we think about the cops, we ought to be united about her. She is the one we care about. She is the one we want peace and safety for, and some sort of future with something approaching normalcy and happiness.

               Which gets back to the “suck my dick” lady.

               For those who watched all of the police body camera footage thus far released, it was the mom – Elba Pope – who seems to have most upset the girl and been most responsible for the chaos that resulted. As the first officer finds and approaches the girl on the street, things are calm and seemingly going in the right direction.

               She had threatened to kill her mother and herself, grabbed her book bag, and headed out into the lonely streets of a frigid winter day. She was a little girl in deep distress, in deep distress because of the chaos and violence she had just witnessed in her own home.

               She had walked in on a scene in which her father’s shirt was covered in blood and she believed that he had been stabbed by her mother. Mom has custody, relations aren’t good.

               We learned that on the body cam footage as the mother, shouting profanities and yelling angrily at the girl, attempted to strike her. At the press conference, Elba Pope said that she asked the police to get help for the daughter because the daughter was having an episode of emotional upset. Yet in the video, the mother seems to be the cause of the emotional upset. She also seems to verbally and physically threaten violence against the 9-year-old girl.

               These threats may be credible. Elba Pope has a criminal record that stretches back into her own childhood. Among the charges she has faced are arson and burglary, and, apparently, assault in a correctional facility. Sadly, she seems to have spent the first four years of her daughter’s life in state prison.

               Those things may be relevant to the nature of the upbringing this little girl is receiving.

               And so may be mom’s second outburst on the body cam.

               After a profanity-laced tirade at the little girl about whose blood was on whom in the violence between mother and father, a passing motorist, observing the incident, slows in the street and asks if they may be of any assistance.

               What’s that about?

               We don’t know, but some people seeing contacts between police and black people will offer such assistance, believing that they may thereby stop some misconduct by police. To me, that’s nuts. But, the person making the offer, even if misguided, is probably doing so out of compassion and concern. It is probably intended as an act of kindness and service.

               But Elba Pope didn’t take it that way.

               She went off. In an exchange that’s only partly understandable on the body cam, she almost immediately is shouting threats at the motorist and repeatedly and angrily yelling, “Suck my dick.”

               This is when things melt down for the little girl.

               Think about it. She has in the preceding minutes seen violence between mother and father – a chaotic poison for the emotions of any child of any age – she has believed that her mom stabbed her dad, and she has been told that her dad injured her mom, and now it looks like mom is going to get in a fight.

               And how does the little girl respond?

               She falls to the ground and, in a terror, begins screaming that her mother is pregnant. Over and over. She fears a fight, and she doesn’t want her mom and her unborn sibling hurt. She shrieks and sobs. There in the snow on the side of the street.

               Stop and think about that. Imagine the horrible pain of that moment, and everything that, over years, led up to it.

               That’s where we have agreement. That’s where it’s not about what you think of cops. It’s what you think about the tender feelings of a little child.

               Protecting that little girl is what should be a priority for us all. Whatever comes of the cops, whatever comes of the policies and the politicians. That little girl needs us.

               Before the handcuffs, before the pepper spray, she deserved our compassion and concern then.

               Which gets back to the lawsuit.

               Any money paid by the City of Rochester should benefit that little girl and no one else. It should go into a trust fund that she gets access to when she’s 21, except for a little bit beforehand to cover college if she wants to go. Any legal work done to get that money or to set up and monitor that trust fund should be done pro bono. Nobody should get a commission off that little girl’s suffering. There are plenty of people with law degrees who would happily use their compassion and their talents to help this girl for free.

               And God bless mom, but what happened in the back seat of that cop car can’t be a lotto payout for her. She contributed as much as anyone to what went wrong that day.

               And politicians, quick to release statements condemning cops, need to recognize their own failings in this matter. The mayor’s new crisis teams were forbidden by policy from responding. The county executive’s new crisis teams are all promise and little delivery. And the county executive’s Child Protective Services needs to be in on this. If it is already involved in this family, it’s not doing a very good job. If it’s not already involved in this family, then somebody needs to review the part of the video where the cop has to stop the mother from assaulting the little girl.

               It’s clear there are problems at home, and whatever gets done to help with such problems needs to get done, for the peace and safety of all involved. The mom is either a perpetrator or a victim of domestic violence – or maybe both – and needs help. The little girl has seen stress most adults can’t begin to imagine, and she needs help. That unborn baby deserves to be born into a stable situation.

               Prayers, programs, people who truly care.

               So that that little girl can have peace, and what every little child ought morally to be entitled to – love, structure and support, and a chance at happiness in life.

               As it stands now, there is a large possibility that her life of stress and chaos will continue unchanged.

               And that would be the greatest injustice in all of this.