On December 6, an 11-year-old Black girl named Honestie Hodges was held at gunpoint, handcuffed, and put in the backseat of a squad car by officers from the Grand Rapids Police Department. The police department launched an internal investigation into the officers’ actions on Monday and released a video of the incident to the public this week.
Police officers were at the residence looking for a woman named Carrie Manning, a 40-year-old white woman who was suspected of stabbing her younger sister. Manning’s niece, Honestie, was walking out the back door with her mother and another aunt, when officers confronted her and told her to walk backwards with her hands up, according to WOOD, a Grand Rapids NBC affiliate. Honestie then screams as officers handcuffed her, patted her down, and put her in the cruiser.
The women in the video can be heard asking the officers why they’re handcuffing the girl, saying “I don’t even know what’s going on” and telling them “Keep your hands off of her!”
Chief David Rahinsky spoke about the incident during a press conference on Tuesday and said the officers’ actions were “inappropriate” according to WOOD. He said the screams on the video made his stomach turn.
“The screams of the 11-year-old, they go to your heart,” Rahinsky said.
“There’s a significant difference when you’re in the heat of the moment dealing with the unknown,” Rahinsky said.
When asked why the police would consider her to be a threat, Rahinsky told WOOD the police could have imagined the suspect told her to hold a weapon. “That being said, that’s not a defense of what we just saw.”
Although Sergeant Cathy Williams told NBC News the investigation is a priority for the department, none of the officers have been placed on administrative leave and are still working their normal schedules.
Honestie told NBC News that the incident changed her career aspirations and that she no longer wants to work in law enforcement when she grows up.
“I wanted to be a detective or a police officer, but now I don’t want anything to do with those kind of things. I’m just wondering why they did that to me,” she said to NBC News as she started to become emotional.
Honestie’s case is horrifying, but it’s just one example of the pattern of violence against Black women and girls.
In a book on police violence, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, Andrea Ritchie details the history of described a 2010 incident from a case where she represented three young Black women who officers pulled off a New York City subway train for fare evasion even though the young women, who came as part of an after school program, were given permission to come through as a group by the stationmaster. Ritchie wrote that police slammed a young woman on a bench and grabbed her by the neck, pepper-sprayed one woman before handcuffing her, and throwing another woman to the floor. As this happened, the officers called the young women “bitch” and “Shaniquah.”
More recently, in 2015, a Texas police officer cursed at several Black teenagers while responding to a call about a “disturbance” at a neighborhood pool party. The officer, Eric Casebolt, slammed a Black teenage girl, Dajerria Becton, to the ground and straddled her as his knees pushed into her back and neck. She had not been arrested or accused of a crime, or even suspected of a crime when the officer slammed the teen to the ground, according to the lawsuit. She has since filed a federal complaint against the police department and Casebolt for excessive force. In 2014, 15 year-old Monique Tillman, who was told by a police officer who was working off-duty for mall security that she was causing a disturbance as she was heading from the mall on her bike, tried to leave as the officer took out his notebook. The officer then slammed her into parked vehicles and body-slammed her into the pavement, according to a lawsuit she filed last year. The officer still works for the Tacoma Police Department.
This dynamic extends into schools, where harsh discipline and an increase in school resource officers often enable physical violence against Black girls and creates an environment that makes Black girls feel less like students and more like suspects. In an interview last year with The Atlantic, Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, explained that although Black girls are only 16 percent of girls in schools, 42 percent of Black girls receive corporal punishment, 31 percent are referred to law enforcement, and 34 percent are arrested on campus.
“When we combine latent misperceptions about black femininity with punitive discipline policies, we are paving the way for black girls to be disproportionately pushed out of schools. Black girls are the only group of girls overrepresented in all discipline categories for which data are collected by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. That is alarming,” Morris told Anderson.
Police officers’ treatment of Black girls also reflects a greater societal view of Black girls. Research shows that compared with white peers, adults of various racial and ethnic backgrounds viewed young Black girls to be more like adults than their white peers. A Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality report of 325 adults that was released in June showed Black girls were perceived as needing less protection and were thought to know more about adult topics, such as sex. Rebecca Epstein, lead author of the report, told CNN, “Our finding that adultification begins as young as the age of 5 was particularly sobering.”