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Michigan police chief defends handcuffing of 12-year-old girl

The girl's mother, Rennae Wooten, made a complaint to her county commissioner after officers handcuffed her daughter in a brief weapons search.

The Grand Rapids Police Department defended handcuffing a 12-year-old black girl for a weapons search during a Tuesday press conference.

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky told reporters that his officers were responding to a 911 call on October 9 when the incident occurred and had only been alerted to it days prior after seeing a media inquiry.

The girl's mother Rennae Wooten, made a complaint to her county commissioner the day after her daughter was handcuffed.

Rahinsky played reporters a recording of the 911 call in which someone claimed their adult daughter saw a neighbor being shot three times, which later turned out to be a false report. Upon arriving at the scene, officers saw no one and called on the family inside the house described in the call.

Body camera footage showed the officers explaining to the 12-year-old girl and her mother that she was being handcuffed to search for weapons and would be released once they were done. One unidentified officer asked the child if she was scared and told her she would be OK.

"Officers showed compassion, they showed good judgement," Rahinksy told reporters. "The individual that was, the 12-year-old, that was handcuffed was handcuffed for a minute and change. The tone of the officers, I think, was appropriate. Officers did as they were trained to do which puts themselves and the individuals they are dealing with in the best possible position in terms of officer safety and officer safety."

Rahinksy also noted that the officers on scene chose not to handcuff the girl's 10-year-old brother while they searched him for weapons. The boy was placed in a police car at one point, according to his mother. He told reporters that he did not believe this matter needed to be "a racialized issue."

Wooten, the children's mother, told NBC News she did believe it was an issue of race because "this isn't the first time this has happened to our colored people." She said her daughter was scared and only returned to school Wednesday, a week after being handcuffed.

"We got to put a stop to this," Wooten said. "These kids should be out there thinking the police are there to help them but they have it all twisted around now. They’re scared of them."

Wooten said she was working on putting her children in counseling once or twice a week to help them with the fear.

"My feelings are hurt right now. I don't know what to do right now," Wooten said.

Kent County Commissioner Robert S. Womack, who was initially contacted by Wooten, told NBC News on Wednesday that there have been an number of young black children who have been handcuffed and it only seems to happen in District 17.

"Our neighborhood is really what dictates their response," said Womack. "The only neighborhood where it’s happening is our neighborhood." He said this doesn't happen in the affluent areas of Grand Rapids.

Womack said that the young girl was known around the community as a good, relatively quiet, child.

The commissioner said he is planning a community march on the police department for Sunday at 5 p.m. to ask the police change its policy on handcuffing kids.

"We’re bringing a psychologist with us on Sunday to discuss the effects on not just the handcuffing but the guns being pointed at the child," he said.