No discipline for GRPD officers who cuffed girl

Department outlines plan to prevent similar incidents involving children

GRPD, bodycam, Honestie Hodges
GRPD bodycam video shows 11-year-old Honestie Hodges being ordered to walk backwards and then handcuffed by officers. (Dec. 6, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids police officers who held an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint, handcuffed her and put in her the back of a cruiser as they searched for an attempted murder suspect will not be disciplined.

An internal investigation into the incident involving 11-year-old Honestie Hodges found the officers did not violate department policy, a late Wednesday afternoon release from the Grand Rapids Police Department said.

However, Chief David Rahinsky added that “in no way diminishes our commitment to identifying what can be done to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

“Concrete steps are being taken to ensure equitable outcomes in our interactions with the community,” a statement from the chief continued.

The release said those actions include:

  • Work on policies affecting children. GRPD Deputy Chief Eric Payne has been assigned to develop an “Honestie policy” for officer interactions with children. His team will include key GRPD members, including those assigned to the Youth Commonwealth, and will work with the Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force.
  • Staffing. GRPD will commit to an “immediate comprehensive examination of its staffing model.” The chief will request adding more lieutenant positions to support each patrol shift and provide supervision and coaching to patrol officers specific to situations like the one invoking the 11-year-old. Those lieutenants will also undergo training in cultural competency and de-escalation techniques.
  • Training. All officers will get more dynamic-scenario training including children. GRPD said that is not standard nationwide.
  • Interaction with children. Starting right away, all patrol officers will have more interaction with community children on a rotating schedule, working with several outreach programs including the Boys and Girls Clubs, Camp O’Malley, the Explorer Program, the Youth Police Academy, Pathways to Policing, IMPACT and Grand Rapids Public Schools Partnerships.

GRPD told 24 Hour News 8 the steps will require additional funding, which has been approved by the city manager and city commission. An exact dollar amount is still being worked out.

“We are confident that this introspection and these new measures will lead to tangible outcomes, making a real and lasting difference in our community,” Rahinsky said in the statement. “We look forward to continuing our partnerships and dialogue with the community.”

Honestie was handcuffed Dec. 6 after exiting her home on the city’s West Side. She and two women leaving the house were detained as GRPD searched for her aunt, who was wanted for a stabbing. The aunt is a 40-year-old white woman. Honestie is black.

In bodycam video of the incident, Honestie can be heard screaming in panic as she was cuffed. Early on, the chief said the video left him nauseated, though he later clarified his statement to say the officers were following procedure.

About 100 more minutes of bodycam footage released Wednesday show Honestie was in cuffs for a little more than two minutes. The video shows how confused she was about what was happening: she can be heard screaming and crying from the moment the cuffs went on until they were taken off.

COMMUNITY MEMBERS IRKED AT DISCIPLINE DECISION

At a meeting with GRPD earlier Wednesday, urban pastors said they were not happy to hear that officers wouldn’t face charges.

“We are dismayed that there would even be the possibility of no disciplinary action on behalf of an officer, especially since the process of investigation and discipline is totally controlled by the Grand Rapids Police Department,” Rev. Jerry Bishop of LifeQuest Ministries said.

He and other pastors said such investigations should be handled externally.

Rahinsky told the pastors that while he disagrees with the officers’ actions, they followed procedure.

“What that doesn’t mean is that we don’t recognize that there is a need for us to look at what occurred and identify opportunities here to ensure different outcomes in the future,” he said.

The pastors also pointed the finger at police unions, which were also called out by the NAACP Tuesday as that group demanded GRPD “know better” and “do better.”

“The police union had dictated a path that there is never any guilty, never any wrong,” Bishop said Wednesday.

Union officials told 24 Hour News 8 they are working to set up a meeting with the pastors and “are willing to listen and hope others are willing to listen to them as well in a mutually respectful manner.”

Rahinsky said his department was working with religious leaders and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in the wake of the incident.

“I think that in every crisis there is an opportunity and I don’t want that to go to the wayside,” Rahinsky said. “We’re not going to agree on everything, but what’s important is that we are sitting at the table together.”

–24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.