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Amidst ICE and Police violence against the immigrant community, most local news media centers the perspectives of cops

March 5, 2019

The news media continues to report on the incident involving the former Marine and US citizen, Jilamr Ramos-Gomez, and the role that the GRPD played in alerting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of Ramos-Gomez’s arrest.

Much of the news coverage has been generated because of the work that has been done by the ACLU, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE. This coverage escalated last week when these groups confronted the Grand Rapids City Commission on the racist, profiling actions taken by Captain Curt VanderKooi.

There have been several news stories since then that have centered around the reaction from the several Grand Rapids Police Officers, some retired and some with the police union.

On March 1st, MLive and other news agencies reported on a press conference hold by the police union who not only claimed that the suspension of officer VanderKooi was the city “cowering to mob rule,” but that the city put a stop to the GRPD’s efforts to arrest organizers of the May 1, 2018 march organized by Movimiento Cosecha. 

Another example is a story that originally ran on WOOD TV8 on Monday night, where two retired GRPD officers added their voices in defense of the now suspended Captain Curt VanderKooi. One of those retired officers even went as far as to say that VanderKooi was not a racist and was in fact, “a role model for officers.”

What is glaringly absent from these most recent news stories are the perspectives of those who are organizing against ICE/Police violence against the immigrant community and the voices of immigrants themselves.

WOOD TV 8 even begins their story with the statement that “they reached out to two long-time officers” who worked with VanderKooi for a long time, thus making it clear that this perspective was sought out. However, there is no counter-balance to the story, since no one from the community who has been challenging the police/ICE collaboration was sought out.

It is important to note at this point that police officers are valorized in this society. This valorization takes place, in part, because numerous institutions make the claim that cops protect the rest of us at great risk. However, the news media and entertainment media also frame the function of law enforcement as necessary and benevolent. Therefore, it is not surprising that the voices of cops and ex-cops are centered over and above members of community that live in constant fear of law enforcement and those who are organizing to expose the collaboration between ICE and local cops.

What is even more interesting is that one of the retired cops who was interviewed in the WOOD TV8 story, Mark Mathis, is also still a member of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association. He posted this statement about the WOOD TV 8 story on the police union’s Facebook page, a statement, which we are posting in full to demonstrate how the police union thinks about what happened with the arrest of Ramos-Gomez and the subsequent suspension of VanderKooi.

My thanks to Leon Hendrix for reaching out to get additional perspectives.

The News 8 version is my short take on the incident. Here is the longer one:

The real problem is that Special Interest groups and the City Government have joined forces. This incident is a vehicle being used to wall the GRPD off from it’s Federal law enforcement partners.

Captain Vanderkooi is happily being thrown under the bus to accomplish these goals.

First, his action that night was completely appropriate.

This incident involved a suspect setting fire at the biggest hospital in Grand Rapids. He burned a keypad, created lots of smoke, and caused alarms to go off. This was near lots of oxygen tanks and patients. He then tried to gain access to the helipad. This wasn’t a small event at the hospital.

Captain Vanderkooi is the head of the Detective Unit. While at home GRPD commanders get “shift summaries”. He would have been given the basics of the incident and the arrested person’s name.

Because of politics the City has already chosen to wall off street officers from the ability to contact some Federal partners. Captain Vanderkooi was the DESIGNATED person at the PD to make these contacts.

Does anyone think that arson at a major hospital combined with trespassing at an aviation facility isn’t a concern in 2019? Anyone?

Investigators are paid to investigate. Captain Vanderkooi is one of the best. The goal of any investigation is to gather information so that the puzzle pieces can be complete when it’s time to solve the mystery.

ICE doesn’t just deal with illegal aliens… they track all movement in and out of the country. My name is in their database. I just got back from Mexico and ICE both ran my information and added it to the database. It’s a huge lie that the ICE database is simply used by racist cops that hate Hispanic people.

The GRPD should have absolutely checked with our Federal partners to see if they could add any clarity to what was being investigated. Due to City rules Vanderkooi was the designated person to do it.

ICE’s database returned a response that caused ICE concern. ICE came down to talk to the arsonist — who promptly told them he was a Foreign National with bad intent.

Local charges were bumped down and ICE took custody of the guy. Turns out he lied. He was a citizen. ICE was provided proof of that and released him.

This has nothing to do with CVK’s appropriate contact with Federal partners. This has nothing to do with the needed ability to work together in the future.

No investigatory database is inherently evil. Information is good and contributes mightily to community safety.

No one would complain about any other database used in the investigation. No one would care if this guy was Bosnian. The faux outrage only exists to accomplish much larger goals.

Captain Vanderkooi, as the head of the DB, would see reports that have perhaps 20,000 Hispanic surnames over the course of a year. He contacts ICE a handful of times annually. Evidence of profiling or racism? Hardly.

The current victim is Vanderkooi. The next casualty is anyone at the PD that does anything this group doesn’t like. The ultimate victim will be community safety.

At the end of the day do we want our officers to cooperate with KCSD? With the State? With other States? With our Federal Partners?

Or is the real goal to have GRPD operate on a sanctuary island where 20 radical protestors call the investigatory shots?

I sure don’t… and anyone with the ability to reason should be very concerned.

News 8 link below in the first comment. Post has been made public…

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