NEW YORK (AP) — A New York City police officer has been suspended after a video posted on social media showed him repeatedly punching a 14-year-old girl in the head while trying to break up a fight.
The incident happened Tuesday when officers responded to an after-school brawl involving a group of girls at a Staten Island bus stop, police said.
As one of the officers tried to arrest one of the children, another girl reached for the officer’s handcuffs and hit him, according to police department spokesperson Julian Phillips.
A video clip apparently shot by a bystander shows the officer, who is white, rain at least nine blows down on the girl, who is Black. Most of the officer’s punches appeared to hit the back of her head or her neck as she ducked and tried to cover up with one hand while using the other to throw flailing punches at the officer.
Off camera, someone says, “He’s hitting her? He’s hitting her?”
Police said the officer, whose name was not released, has been suspended without pay while the department’s internal affairs bureau investigates.
The girl was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released, police said.
Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday that he was “not pleased” when the video was brought to his attention.
“We’re going to use the video that was posted on Instagram,” Adams said at an unrelated news conference. “That’s when it first came to my attention, and of my understanding, the police commissioner swiftly suspended the officer that was involved. Now the internal affairs bureau is doing a thorough investigation to determine exactly what happened.”
Interviewed by the Daily News, the 14-year-old girl said she had a knot on her head and a headache. She acknowledged hitting the officer and said she confronted him because he was arresting her 12-year-old sister.
Civil rights activists have long complained that police officers are quicker to use force when dealing with Black children. Black kids are far more likely to be fatally shot than white children, research has shown, and are more likely to be seen by authorities as potentially dangerous.
Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, who leads the union that represents patrol officers, said more investigation is needed before anyone can conclude that the officer’s behavior was wrong.