GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Like last week, the main topic of discussion at Tuesday's Grand Rapids City Commission meeting was the highly controversial incident in which an American citizen was detained by federal immigration officials.
But while previous meetings have roiled with disruptive protests against police, Tuesday’s meeting was much different. Most of the speakers supported Grand Rapids Police Department Capt. Curt VanderKooi and derided the move to have him placed on administrative leave.
“Capt. VanderKooi does not deserve what’s happening to him today. He’s an amazing officer and he deserves nothing but the utmost respect and our support,” one citizen said.
VanderKooi, GRPD's liaison to U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, called ICE while off-duty after seeing Jilmar Ramos-Gomez's photo on TV the day police say hestarted a fire in a hospitaland broke onto the helipad. Because VanderKooi didn't check in with any officers working on the case, he didn't know they had already found Ramos-Gomez's U.S. passport and realized he is a Marine veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Ramos-Gomez was ultimately detained by ICE forthree daysbefore his attorney proved he's a citizen.
Last week,protesters calling for VanderKooi to be fireddisrupted the city commission meeting with chants. It led to Mayor Rosalyn Bliss ending the meeting early.
After that meeting, City Manager Mark Washington called for a review to determine whether VanderKooi was properly disciplined forreferring to Ramos-Gomez as "loco"in an email to ICE. While a review is underway, VanderKooi wasplaced on leave.
Tuesday's meeting was had long been scheduled to be held on the city’s West Side. The demographics may explain why the tone was so different, or perhaps it was because VanderKooi was placed on leave. The majority of speakers were critical of that decision.