Posted: 8:54 am Tuesday, April 25th, 2017
By Eric "Hollywood" Davis STAR 94.5
Last month, as five young black boys in Grand Rapids, Mich., were walking home from a local rec center, where they had been playing basketball, they were swarmed by local police, who drew their guns, and held them at gunpoint for over 10 minutes, as the boys wailed in fear and confusion. The incident happened nearly a month ago, but the body camera footage was just released.
The situation is awful.
The boys are 12 to 14 years old, and had absolutely no idea what was going on.
“I don’t want to die,” one boy cried out to the officers.
“Can you please put your guns down?” pleaded another boy.
Through it all you can hear the gut-wrenching sobs of one of the boys as he is gripped with fear.
A fight had broken out in the city earlier that day, March 24. One of the witnesses claimed he saw a young man in that fight drop a gun. When police later saw these young boys walking home, the cops claimed the boys matched the earlier descriptions.
First and foremost — these kids didn’t do anything wrong. And it’s unclear if the young man involved in the earlier fight actually had a gun at all. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable. Whatever the case, these five kids weren’t in that fight and were completely unarmed. To force all of them into a terrifying situation based on one unconfirmed report is a uniquely black experience. If such incidents happen in white communities, where elementary- and middle school-aged boys walking home from the park get swarmed by police at gunpoint, I’ve never heard about them. But this happens to black folk in America every single day.
Secondly, many of the boys who were held at gunpoint by police aren’t even close to matching any descriptions given by an eyewitness. The others had on clothes that were so common that half of the young black boys in Grand Rapids could’ve been suspects.
Lastly, the police grossly overreacted. They never saw guns on these children. They never saw anything that looked like a gun on these children. That 10 minutes into the encounter, officers still had their guns drawn on the children makes absolutely no sense. These kids could’ve been patted down and released in less than 90 seconds. Even that would’ve been humiliating, but 10 minutes? Some of the officers were literally hiding behind their car doors like they were expecting an Old Western shootout. It was preposterous.
In the name of protecting the community from guns, these kids were then held at gunpoint, then handcuffed and detained like dangerous criminals. Far more harm was done to these young boys than the police seemed capable or willing to comprehend.
“Nobody was hurt,” said one of the officers to a terrified parent on the scene. She was overcome with emotions seeing her innocent son held at gunpoint by police.
If by “hurt” the officer means nobody was shot, then that’s correct, but that’s a low bar for doing no harm. Every child and parent involved in this horrendous debacle was hurt. The psychological trauma they experienced is both deep and real. That trauma is not imaginary. And police of all people — who have such an extreme rate of suicide, domestic violence, and drug abuse, in great part because of the psychological trauma of what they experience every single day — should understand that.
This was wrong. The Mayor and Police Chief have both apologized for the incident, but the apologies ring hollow when out of the other side of their mouths they’ve also said that the officers did nothing wrong. The apology feels like little more than lip service.