GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — An emotional conversation took place on Sunday between Grand Rapids police and the community regarding officers placing children in handcuffs. It was ignited by that 12-year-old girl who was handcuffed by police because of a false report of shots fired earlier this month.
The issues talked about involve children and it’s the reason so many people say they are so intent on having their voices heard. The police department and elected officials said they’re here to listen.
Grand Rapids police said officers are following policy when placing kids in handcuffs when answering a call.
“The biggest modification with this policy, or the existence of this policy, is us continuing to emphasize officers using discretion,” Chief Rahinsky said.
The community saying rules need to change and that discretion makes them feel their children are unsafe.
“We’re at a point now, where this policy has to change. That means we’re going to have to hear from a lot of you tonight,” said Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack.
Dozens of people said they want action rather than conversation.
“Every two months, we go and march. And every two months someone following protocol. Make your mind up. Our kids matter too. Our black children matter too,” said one concerned parent.
A mother, who says her son was handcuffed said the situation has meant sacrifices for her other children.
“One of my boys had his championship football game. I’m missing it. Because I wanted my son to know that there’s people in the community that care about him,” she said.
The procedure at the center of this emotional conversation is relatively new.
“We’ve been training to it for about six months now,” said Rahinsky. “It’s called ‘youth interactions.”’
“We’re now encouraging officers to use their training, their experience, and their knowledge of the neighborhood, before deciding to restrain by use of handcuffing,” he said.
Police say it’s an attempt to make sure officers are able to use their judgement when it comes to handling interactions with young people.
“In the past, we’ve always trained to worst case scenario. How to safe guard both the community the police,” Rahinsky said.
But people are saying the policy leaves too much room for interpretation.
“Take that badge off for a minute,” one person said. “Do you have a child?”
Emotions ran high as families wonder how to protect their children.
“My question is, ‘What could she have done differently?’” “Because she followed all his demands, all his requests and she still was handcuffed,” one mom said. “When this police department going to change? You like being on the news all over the country?”
Commissioner Womack asked the department to not place anyone in handcuffs under the age of 13. Meanwhile many members at the meeting are hoping it will inspire more action beyond the conversation.