Ruling reversed, GRPD capt. could face punishment

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

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids appeals board has reversed a decision that cleared the police officer whose call to federal immigration officials led to the wrongful detention of a U.S. citizen.

In a 6-2 vote Wednesday, the Grand Rapids Civilian Appeal Board decided that Capt. Curt VanderKooi was in violation of the city’s impartial policing policy.

VanderKooi contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 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. That’s what led to Wednesday’s ruling by the Civilian Appeals Board.

A city spokesperson said there’s no timeline on when City Manager Mark Washington could decide on additional punishment for VanderKooi. The matter will be discussed further at the May 22 meeting of the Civilian Appeal Board.

VanderKooi has been with GRPD for nearly 40 years.

**Correction: Citing incorrect information from a city spokesperson, this article previously stated the next meeting on the matter would be May 23. It is actually scheduled for May 22. The article also stated that would be a meeting of the city commission. It is actually another Civilian Appeal Board meeting.

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