“You have my commitment, my unwavering commitment that we will improve the policy.”
That is Grand Rapid’s newly appointed City Manager, Mark Washington committing to improving the Grand Rapids Police Department Youth Interaction Policy during a community forum this week.
The forum was organized by Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack, after hearing of last week’s incident where a 12-year African American girl was cuffed at gunpoint by GRPD.
Grand Rapids Police Department Chief, David Rahinsky, also spoke to the crowd explaining how police are trained to engage with youth.
“We are now encouraging officers to use their training, their experience, and their knowledge of the neighborhood and look at the totality of circumstances before they decide to restrain by use of handcuffing the juvenile.”
Since the youth interaction policy was put in place, there has been a total of four incidents where young African American children were handcuffed and held at gunpoint by GRPD.
Juanita Ligon, mother of 11 year old’s Martrez and Martrell Coston, who were cuffed at gunpoint in August, doesn’t believe African American children are safe at the hands of the police.
“I do not think the police is for my children or children like them in the community because if so they would know how to deal with our children. The officers went from calling my child suspect, to man, to buddy. So it’s a cultural breakdown with the officers and the children of our community just from the language that they use when they speak with our children.”
The youth interaction policy followed the Honestie Hodges incident in December of last year, where GRPD cuffed 11-year old Honestie at gunpoint.
Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.