GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The fallout continues after an 11-year-old girl was handcuffed and held at gunpoint earlier this month by Grand Rapids Police officers during a search for a stabbing suspect.
The Grand Rapids Police Union president spoke to FOX 17 about the issue, after Police Chief David Rahinsky called the incident “nauseating” and said changes need to be made within the department.
Union president Andy Bingel represents the nearly 250 officers that work for the department. He says the officers are in disbelief over how the situation has been handled and adds that “unrepairable damage” has been done between Chief Rahinsky and his officers.
The story has gained national attention. On Tuesday, Dec. 12, Chief Rahinsky released a short clip of body camera footage showing 11-year-old Honestie Hodges held at gunpoint and placed in handcuffs during a search for a suspect on Dec. 6.
“I was in disbelief,” said Bingel. “I’m speaking on behalf of the members, because we are all in disbelief.”
Bingel says it was the chief’s statements in that press conference that struck a nerve.
“What you will see on the body worn camera is the juvenile was treated the same way we would’ve treated any adult,” said Rahinsky. “When you’re dealing with an 11-year-old, it’s inappropriate.”
“I don’t know why he made those comments the way he made them,” said Bingel. “I really don’t, and it’s really baffling for all the membership.”
Bingel says the chief did not speak to the officers involved in the incident before that press conference.
“I think the chief should’ve taken a step back and talked to his command staff,” said Bingel. “He’s surrounded by a lot of great command, experienced command ,and he really didn’t seek much input. I think there’s been a lot of damage done, and I don’t think he acted quick enough to restore that.”
Some officers in the union believe “unrepairable damage” has been made. “That’s accurate,” said Bingel. “But you never want to give up hope, right?”
Bingel has 27 years in law enforcement on his resume and says the officers on scene that night were following protocol. He says that original video clip shown gives an incomplete picture of what really happened.
“They were furious that only a small portion was shown without the interaction they had with Honestie after the fact and how they talked to the mom and how they explained things to her,” said Bingel. “When you guys first saw it, they show Honestie being put in handcuffs, screaming, and then that’s it. That leaves only the imagination to wonder what happened next.”
Bingel agrees with Chief Rahinsky that changes need to be made, but for a different reason.
“I think communication is the number one change that needs to be improved upon,” said Bingel. “We need better communication with our commissioners, with our mayor, and with the community. We just need to remember that we’ve got a job to do, and we can’t let this distraction take away from serving the citizens. I don’t expect people outside of law enforcement to understand everything we do. As hard as they might try to understand, they’re not going to, and I think we need to realize that.”
While Bingel says many of the officers in the union feel that enough damage has been made, he is open to meeting with the chief to restore those bonds. He also says there’s a huge disconnect between the police department and city hall and wants to restore communication with them as well as the community.
Chief Rahinsky says there is still another 100 minutes of body camera footage to review. Their internal investigation should be completed in the next few days.
That stabbing suspect was eventually found and arrested at another home near that scene.
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