GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Michigan police chief says he’s nauseated by body camera footage that shows one of his officers pointing a gun at an 11-year-old girl and handcuffing her as the child screams.
The Grand Rapids police department has opened an internal investigation after the Wednesday incident. Police said at a press conference Tuesday they were searching for an attempted murder suspect they believed may have been in the home when officers detained the girl and two other women, including the girl’s mother, as they exited the house.
Police were looking for the girl’s 40-year-old aunt, who was suspected of stabbing a relative nearby, but didn’t find her at the home, WOOD-TV reports. The suspect was later arrested at another home.
The girl’s mother, Whitney Hodges, told the station officers ordered her daughter to come down from the porch with her hands up. On body camera video played by chief David Rahinsky at the press conference, an officer can be seen telling the child to walk backwards toward him as he holds up a gun.
On the video, Hodges can be heard saying, “She’s 11 years old, sir,” and “That’s my child.”
The officer is then seen handcuffing the child, who begins screaming “No!” and wailing.
“You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re all right,” the officer is heard saying. “You’re not going to jail or anything.”
Another officer can be heard saying, “Quit crying.”
The girl told WOOD-TV the incident left her scared.
“It made me feel scared and it made me feel like I did something wrong,” the girl told the television station. “I’m afraid to open or go near my back door because of what happened.”
Rahinsky said Tuesday that he was disturbed by the video.
“Listening to the 11-year-old’s response makes my stomach turn – it makes me physically naseous,” Rahinsky said. “To say anything less than that would be insincere.”
Police issued a statement Monday evening saying they detained the women and the girl because officers hadn’t determined if they were suspects. Police said the woman and girl weren’t armed. They said the 11-year-old was handcuffed for about two minutes while she was brought back into an alley and patted down to make sure she didn’t have anything dangerous on her.
The girl was then placed in the police cruiser for about 10 minutes, spokeswoman Cathy Williams said. She was later allowed to stand in the alley with her other siblings, Williams said.
The girl told WOOD-TV she screamed for her mother while she was in the police cruiser.
“When my mom was walking past, I was putting my hands through the little bars, banging on the windows, screaming, ‘Please don’t let them take me,’” the girl told the station.
Officers got permission to search the house and didn’t locate the suspect. The women and girl were then released, police said.
Rahinsky said Tuesday he understands why the officers may have felt the need to search the girl because it was possible an older suspect had handed her a weapon to hold. However, he said, “that’s not a defense of what we just saw.”
Rahinsky said discretion in light of the girl’s age should have trumped what the officer may have considered “practice and protocol” in the circumstance.
“The juvenile is treated the same way we would have treated any adult,” Rahinsky said. “When you’re dealing with an 11-year-old, it’s inappropriate.”
Rahinsky said his department was in the midst of “tough conversations” to review hiring, training and supervision practices. The internal review of the incident is ongoing. Rahinsky said he plans to meet with the girl’s family.