Debate symbolHonestie Hodges

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On December 6, 2017, Hodges headed outside her Grand Rapids, Mich., home with her mother to go to the store. They were confronted in their yard by several police officers. One yelled, “Put your hands on top of your—” before being interrupted by Honestie’s mother: “She is 11 years old, sir!” The officer said “Stop yelling!” and ordered the young girl to walk backward toward him with her hands up. He then grabbed her arms and handcuffed her as Honestie cried, “No, No, No!” Police explained they were looking for Honestie’s 40-year-old aunt as a suspect in a stabbing, but didn’t explain how they could mistake the child for a 40-year-old.

Honestie Hodges in a recent family photo.

“Listening to the 11-year-old’s response makes my stomach turn,” admitted Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky. “It makes me physically nauseous.” But after an investigation, he did not discipline any officers: they didn’t violate any departmental policies, but said officers made a “mistake” in how they handled the situation. Honestie was released minutes later — once they decided the 11-year-old wasn’t 40. The department was already under scrutiny for an incident months before, when officers held five teens at gunpoint, and took 10 minutes to handcuff them all. The boys pled for their lives thinking they were going to be shot. They had done nothing wrong: they were simply playing basketball. Officers were looking for two men who — someone said — had a gun, but none of the boys met the mens’ descriptions. The Honestie Hodges case spurred a national dialogue about how police deal with children. “We need to look at everything, from our hiring to our training to our supervision,” Chief Rahinsky said. “We do have a problem.” The result was the department’s “Honestie Policy”, which dictates officers use “good judgement” and act in the best interests of juveniles they encounter.

On November 9, 2020 — Honestie’s birthday — her mother took her to the hospital. The hospital diagnosed her with Covid-19, and sent her home. By evening an ambulance was called to her house: the girl was critical, and admitted to intensive care. Five days later, she was put on a ventilator. Honestie had no underlying health problems: she was “healthy and happy,” her grandmother said. “The world was open to her.” Honestie never regained consciousness, and died from the virus on November 22 at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. She was 14.

From This is True for 29 November 2020