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'You don't treat anyone like that': Mom of 9-year-old pepper-sprayed by Rochester police speaks out

Elba Pobe said she wants officials to fire the Rochester, New York, police officers involved in the incident that left her daughter traumatized.

Days after video of her 9-year-old daughter being handcuffed and pepper-sprayed sparked protests in Rochester, New York, and condemnation from high-ranking state officials, the mother of the girl is demanding authorities fire the three police officers involved in the Jan. 29 incident.

“I definitely want to see a change in the system,” Elba Pobe told NBC News correspondent Ron Allen on Tuesday. “I trusted the Rochester Police Department to do what they needed to do to help my daughter, not to abuse her or hurt her at all.”

She said she feels responsible for how the scene unfolded and that her daughter was traumatized by the incident.

“It’s not her fault,” Pobe said. “I don’t ever want her to feel like being pepper-sprayed was the option or the right way to handle her.”

“Regardless of what the situation may have been, that’s still my first born, my baby, my child. You don’t treat anyone like that,” she said.

One police officer was suspended and two were placed on administrative leave in Rochester two days after the release of a video capturing the incident.

An internal investigation was ongoing and a spokesman did not respond to a request for additional details. The suspensions will remain in place until the internal probe is completed.

Body camera video released by the police department Sunday sparked public outcry. Videos of protests showed hundreds of people marching on Rochester's snowy streets chanting, "Black lives matter," and gathering outside the city's police station on Monday night as state officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, condemned the officers' actions.

"This isn't how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl," Cuomo said in a statement on Monday.

"What happened in Rochester on Friday is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable," Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. "Such use of force and pepper spray should never be deployed against a child, period. My office is looking into what transpired and how a child was ever subjected to such danger."

Pobe said she initially called the police when she got into an argument with her husband outside their house. According to Pobe, her daughter overheard the conversation and got upset. From there, the situation escalated.

Andre Anderson, deputy chief of the Rochester police, told reporters on Sunday that authorities were responding to a report of “family trouble” involving a girl who was threatening to harm herself and her mother.

When officers tried to move the girl into a police car to take her to a hospital, she resisted, kicking one of the officers, Anderson said.

The footage released by the police department shows authorities handcuffing the girl while she repeatedly screams for her father and refuses to get in the vehicle.

“You’re acting like a child,” one of the officers says at one point.

In response, the girl says, “I am a child.”

In the video, officers can be heard saying they would pepper-spray her if she continued to resist. When an officer did, Anderson said, the “effects of that did work.”

It isn't clear what happened before or after the video, which was edited by police, though the mother and Anderson said the girl was eventually taken to Rochester General Hospital and released.

The confrontation comes less than a year after Daniel Prude, 41, died while being restrained by Rochester police with a “spit hood” over his head.

The police department’s chief and entire command staff resigned after Prude’s death, and the city enacted law enforcement reforms, including moving crisis intervention from the purview of police.

Earlier this month, the city of Rochester launched a “person in crisis” response team that provided non-law enforcement response to some emergency calls, NBC affiliate WHEC reported. Mayor Lovely Warren said on Sunday that the team did not respond to the incident because the initial 911 call didn’t warrant one.

"Unfortunately, this was not an incident where PIC [Person In Crisis] Team would have been called," Warren said Sunday. "This call did not come in a form that would have alerted the PIC Team. It came in a way that would have alerted the response that was given, which was our police department."

Pobe said she wished to see a larger structural change in how the police department handled mental health crises.

“I definitely want to see them actually help people instead of resorting to some type of violence,” she said. “Not sit there and tackle them and pepper-spray them when they’re literally just in a distressed moment.”

Pobe said the officers went too far and accused them of "excessive use of force."

“It's a traumatic experience having to be surrounded by possibly 10 officers being arrested and being pepper-sprayed,” she said. “I can't imagine how a 9-year-old mind would process that.”

“No one who would treat a 9-year-old child like that should be in law enforcement to help anyone,” she said.