Last week, police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, were looking for a woman who allegedly stabbed her younger sister, Carrie Manning. In their search for the 40-year-old white woman, they pulled up to a home a few blocks away from her residence — a family member’s home.
According to WOOD, police were parked outside the home when Manning’s black, 11-year-old niece, Honestie Hodges, and Honestie’s mother, Whitney, walked out the back door.
Moments later, the girl and her mother were being held at gunpoint by police. Honestie told WOOD they were everywhere:
“They had police cars over on this street, they had police cars all along the alley.”
Officers instructed Honestie to walk towards them with her hands in the air — during which her mother shouted to them that she’s only 11 years old. Then, Honestie was handcuffed.
The incident was captured by an officer’s body camera. As soon as the cuffs locked around her wrists, Honestie began crying and screaming. She told WOOD:
“It made me feel scared and it made me feel like I did something wrong.”
According to WOOD, Grand Rapids Police admitting to cuffing Honestie, as well as detaining two women who stepped outside their home with her, because they had not yet confirmed she wasn’t Manning — her 40-year-old white aunt.
Police said they made sure she and the women were not armed, and they released her from the handcuffs approximately two minutes later. But Honestie’s mother Whitney is furious her daughter was restrained at all, telling WOOD:
“The whole time they are telling her to come down, I’m telling them, ‘She’s 11 years old. That’s my daughter. Don’t cuff her.'”
Honestie told the outlet she was placed in the back of a cop car and was terrified:
“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.'”
Officers in the body cam footage can be heard telling the girl to calm down as they’re cuffing her, saying:
“You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re all right. You’re not going to jail or anything.”
Once Honstie started to cry, officers told her to “quit crying.”
The next day, after Honestie’s family complained to the police department, Grand Rapids police launched an internal investigation into the matter. The department told WOOD it would not answer any questions until the investigation is complete.
But the video of an 11-year-old girl has since made multiple headlines, and people want answers.
When asked whether he was provided any training regarding the ethics of handling a child, Mike, a Florida police officer, told Dearly he never received any. He said neither he nor his colleagues were trained on the physical or verbal handling of a child.
Mike told Dearly that, outside of a child threatening imminent harm on another person, “it’s never appropriate to handcuff a child.”
The Florida officer, who chose to stay partially anonymous because he’s not privy to the specifics of Honestie’s case, is a recent graduate of the police academy. Despite more and more police involvement with children through campus security positions, he hasn’t seen any offered training that specifically deals with handling children:
“No, [training to deal with kids] is not common. We never got training specifically geared towards young children.”
He did, however, offer that what the officers did could be “understandable,” saying:
“Sometimes, 11-year-olds don’t look like 11-year-olds; she could have looked 15 or 16. So, maybe they wanted to check the girl’s age.”
But he did not understand why they chose to cuff her and hold her at gunpoint:
“It could be excessive force.”
Although there are several voluntary training programs on how to deal with both families and children through some police departments and national organizations like the National Association of School Resource Officers, the Atlantic found that officers rarely opt into them.
Publications like NPR and CNN have reported cases of children as young as four years old being handcuffed — in many cases, the cuffs were placed around their biceps because they were so small — and both have found that cuffing a child can have lasting negative effects.
Honestie told WOOD the incident has left her in fear, saying:
“I’m afraid to open or go near my back door because of what happened.”
WOOD reported that when asked what she would tell those police officers if she had the chance, she responded:
“I’m just wondering why they did that to me.”
And she told the outlet that before being handcuffed she “wanted to be a detective or police officer,” but now she said she “doesn’t want anything to do with those kinds of things.”
Although it’s unclear what the Grand Rapids Police Department’s investigation will determine, Honestie already appears to have been affected by the officers’ decision to cuff her.