Dozens demand public apology from Grand Rapids officers who held boys at gunpoint

Posted at 11:00 PM, Apr 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 23:21:54-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Dozens of people demanded a change in police protocol after an incident where officers drew their guns on five young, unarmed boys.

On March 24, Grand Rapids police had their guns drawn on a group of young boys who were walking home after playing basketball. Police say they were responding to a call where a witness reported suspects matching their description armed with a gun. The boys were ordered to get on the ground and were detained, but ultimately it was found they were not armed.

"I apologized to the young men and their families with a sincere apology and an explanation that the officers involved were following up on information in our ongoing efforts to keep everyone in this community safe," GRPD Chief David Rahinsky said at Tuesday's city commission meeting.

Last week, police justified their actions by saying they were following protocol used by police agencies across the country when responding to a report where a firearm might be involved, saying that they acted within procedure to draw their service weapons and order individuals to the ground until the situation is sorted out.

"The officers conducted themselves in a professional manner that resulted in a safe outcome for all," Rahinsky said.

In spite of that apology, public comment was filled with emotion, mostly anger. Representatives from church groups, the NAACP, and LINC UP - as well as the boys' mothers - demanded a public apology from the officers involved in the incident. They also called for a review in how police interact with youth.

"We don't want this to happen to nobody else," one of the boy's mothers said. "We ask for a change in protocol so things can be better for these youth growing up."

"I think Grand Rapids is at that point where it's a boilerplate, and we've reached it," said one of the boy's fathers. "I've lived this for 38 years, talking about being in the car driving down the street and [the police] just stare you down."

"This has affected my boys tremendously, where they can't even play basketball comfortable outside of their own home. I'm calm, but I'm very angry."