GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A black Michigan mother is demanding justice after Grand Rapids police handcuffed her and her 12-year-old daughter while investigating a reported shooting at the family’s home, marking the fourth time in less than two years that officers from the western Michigan department handcuffed innocent black children.
Officers responding to a 911 caller’s report of a shooting Oct. 9 asked Rennae Wooten and her children to exit their home while officers searched it for a shooter. Police later determined it was a false report.
Wooten said officers pointed guns at her children and briefly handcuffed her daughter on her knees while searching her for weapons. The 12-year-old was released once officers found out her age.
Wooten said her daughter was traumatized and is unable to sleep.
“I want justice,” Wooten said. “My kids are messed up from this.”
It was the fourth time since March 2017 that police in Michigan’s second-largest city handcuffed unarmed black children before clearing them of wrongdoing. The most recent occurrence was in August, when Grand Rapids officers handcuffed 11-year-old twins and a 17-year-old at gunpoint while responding to a report about juveniles who had a handgun.
The department adopted a youth interaction policy in December 2017 to improve relations with children. It was named the Honestie Policy after 11-year-old Honestie Hodges, who was handcuffed by officers searching for a violent crime suspect.
Wooten said her daughter “probably wouldn’t have been handcuffed” if she were white.
“If it was somebody white, it probably would have been a little different,” Wooten said.
Police Chief David Rahinsky defended the officers’ actions last week while investigating the shooting report, which was later determined to be false.
Rahinsky said “officers did as they were trained to do.”
“Officers showed compassion, they showed good judgment, the individual, the 12-year-old who was handcuffed was handcuffed for a minute and change, the tone of the officer, I think was appropriate,” he said.
Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack has criticized police for their response to the incident.
“How many kids … have to be handcuffed before they understand enough is enough and it stops today?” Womack said. “It has to stop somewhere.”
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