GRPD capt. who called ICE about vet gets 2 day suspension

Grand Rapids
GRPD Capt. Curtis VanderKooi 022819_1551396818607.JPG.jpg

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids police captain will be back at work after a review of whether he was “properly held accountable” for a controversy involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association said the city suspended Capt. Curt VanderKooi for two days.

VanderKooi , who has been with GRPD for nearly 40 years, contacted ICE after Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was arrested in November for allegedly setting a fire inside Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital. Ramos-Gomez is a former U.S. Marine who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. ICE says he told agents he was in the country illegally, but he is a natural-born citizen. He was held by ICE for three days in December until his attorney proved that.

After VanderKooi contacted ICE while off-duty without consulting anyone else at the department, he used the word “loco” to describe Ramos-Gomez in an email to federal officials. The Grand Rapids Police Department said that while an Internal Affairs investigation found VanderKooi was right to call ICE because of terrorism concerns, it also found his use of the word “loco” was unprofessional and he was counseled.

Then the city launched a review of whether VanderKooi was “properly held accountable” for his use of inappropriate language, during which time he was placed on leave. That investigation ultimately found no evidence VanderKooi violated the impartial policing policy, but it was appealed.

In May, the Civilian Appeals Board reversed the decision that cleared the police officer. The decision then went to City Manager Mark Washington whether VanderKooi should face further discipline.

The Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association released the following statement Tuesday:

“The Grand Rapids Police Command Officer’s Association is shocked and dismayed at how the rights of Captain Curt VanderKooi, who has served the City of Grand Rapids for nearly 40 years with honor and integrity, could have his rights so blatantly violated in an effort to discipline him for the first time in his career.  His due process rights, the GRPCOA collective bargaining agreement, along with state law were trampled on throughout the Citizen’s Appeal Board process and now by the final disposition issued by the City Manager.  He, and many others in City Hall, were put on notice and advised of these violations in the form of our grievance which was originally filed May 23, 2019.  We were forced to file this grievance after he was cleared of the most serious accusations following an unprecedented three iterations of the same investigation.

“Captain VanderKooi was given a two day suspension, which has recently been served.  The City Manager advised the GRPCOA that he was willing to uphold the original exoneration in exchange for his agreement to retire.  This discipline was unwarranted and is clearly an attempt to appease a vocal group of activists who made him a scape goat for their own political gain.  We will be amending the grievance to appeal this most recent decision by the City Manager.  We are also awaiting a very copious FOIA request involving all the communication reference this investigation and those involved in it.  Captain VanderKooi is pleased to announce he has decided to postpone his original retirement date in 2020 and looks forward to serving the citizens and crime victims in the City of Grand Rapids as Commander of the Investigations Unit for an additional year.”

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