GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A set of new policies, procedures and training aimed at improving ways officers deal with youth is on the books.
Members of Grand Rapids’ Police Policy and Procedure Review Task Force presented the new policy to city commissioners Tuesday.
The Youth Interactions Policy calls on Grand Rapids Police Department officers to take alternative approaches to dealing with youth based on multiple factors including age, physical size, severity of the crime and apparent mental capacity.
>>PDF: Youth Interactions Policy
The policy is a set of guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules. Its authors say it had to be written that way because every situation is different.
“We always ask officer to make good judgments, and that’s what this policy says: Make a good judgment,” GRPD Deputy Chief Eric Payne described.
The policy is a result of two high-profile incidents last year involving young people. In one case, 11-year-old Honestie Hodges was handcuffed at gunpoint and placed in the back of a patrol car while officers searched for an attempted murder suspect.
The new policy addresses that type of situation in a general way:
“If a youth has been patted down, searched or handcuffed, officers shall notify the youth’s parent or guardian. The notification may be either in person or by telephone and shall be documented in the field interrogation or incident report, along with the identity of the parent or guardian who was notified. If the officer is unable to notify a parent or guardian, every attempt shall be documented in the field interrogation or incident report.”
Honestie told 24 Hour News 8 she’s happy that there is a new policy, but it still doesn’t make her feel safe around police. When asked Tuesday what would have to change in order for her to feel comfortable with them, she replied, “their actions.” She is hopeful the policy will lead to changes.
In March 2017, several teens were forced to the ground at gunpoint by officers responding to reports of a teen with a gun. This incident wouldn’t be impacted by the new policy. In cases where a weapon may be involved, police will continue to follow the same procedure.
Raynard Ross, who co-chaired the task force that came up with the policy, said it attempts to address the rights of youths and the safety of officers and the public.
“By no means is it an exact roadmap to say every situation is going to be the same, because we know that’s not the case,” Ross said.
City Commissioner Senita Leanear, who represents the 3rd Ward, questioned whether citizens who demanded the change in policy are getting what they wanted. Much of what of what’s in the new policy was already left up to officers’ discretion.
“I think it’s pretty subjective,” she said. “I just don’t feel confident yet that we will see a difference, because if it’s the same language and all of the same things that we had before, I need to understand how putting it into one particular policy will help us to change behavior.”
Lenear asked police officials to track incidents involving young people so they can be compared to past incidents to determine the policy’s effectiveness.
—24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.