GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Police Department captain who was placed on administrative leave after reporting a U.S. citizen to federal immigration officials will be returning to work.
Capt. Curt VanderKooi will be reinstated to full duty effective Monday, according to a GRPD news release. However, he will no longer be the police department’s contact with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The decision comes after the city investigated and found no evidence he was in violation of the impartial policing policy.
VanderKooi is the officer who contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was arrested for allegedly setting a fire inside Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital and somehow gaining access to the hospital’s helipad.
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, though he was born and raised in Grand Rapids. He was held by ICE for three days in December until his attorney proved he is a citizen.
An appeal has been filed and will be heard by the Civilian Appeals Board on May 15.
The police department released the following statement regarding the case Friday:
“We understand the sensitivity of matters involving ICE and the concerns of our community. Upon review of the U-visa certification process, I have determined that it is better served as a function of the Records Unit rather than the Investigations Division. The change means Captain VanderKooi will no longer have direct involvementin that process as the Investigations Division Commander.
Our department is sensitive to the nature of citizenship status and we remain committed to developing a new policy that clearly defines expectations for how our officers interact with federal authorities, including ICE. The policy is expected to be completed in the near future. At that time, it will be shared with the community and be available on the City’s website along with our other policies.
Since this matter is under appeal, we do not plan to make any further comments on it at this time.”
Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington also released the following statement Friday:
“As City Manager, I’m committed to ensuring due process in matters of both civil rights and employee rights. Based on the results of our Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit investigation, Captain VanderKooi will be taken off administrative leave and return to regular duty.
The findings of the investigation were appealed by the complainants, and that appeal will be heard by the Civilian Appeals Board on May 15. That is the next step in the process, and I ask that the community honor that process.
Because of the appeal, I’m not able to comment further on the specifics of the investigation at this time. What I can say is that this entire matter has given the Chief and I reason to reexamine Police Department policies in regard to interactions with federal authorities. I’ve asked Chief Kiddle to update those policies so the department can be very clear about expectations.
Good working relationships among our officers and residents is the foundation of strong community. That has been a guiding principle for me as we establish the future of our Police Department. You will see that reflected not just in updates to policy but also in my search for a new police chief. I expect someone who is tough on crime, culturally competent and an innovative leader – someone who keeps Grand Rapids safe through proactive communications, relationship building and a conviction to building communities.
You’ll also see my commitment in the proposed budget, which allocates funding for additional training, staffing, mental and behavioral resources, and violence prevention programming. These things will help us turn the corner on community-police relations.
Grand Rapids is an engaged and collaborative city, and it belongs to everyone who calls this place home. We have an opportunity moving forward to demonstrate how we can work together toward positive outcomes in a collaborative way.”
The Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association issued the following statement about the decision:
“The Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association is very pleased that Captain Curt VanderKooi, a 39 year veteran, has been reinstated to his full duties at the Grand Rapids Police Department. He, once again, has been exonerated even after an unprecedented investigative process. Although we are concerned with the length of time it took to reach this resolution, we are pleased with the findings.
“Captain VanderKooi did not violate any policies, procedures, or laws. In the end, he was simply upholding the oath he swore to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Michigan while faithfully discharging the duties he was assigned.”