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ACLU and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center File an appeal with the City of Grand Rapids over Jilmar Ramos-Gomez case

March 11, 2019

On Wednesday, the ALCU and the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center filed an appeal to the City of Grand Rapids, specifically to the Grand Rapids Civilian Appeal Board

The letter begins by stating:

Dear Civilian Appeal Board:

We write to appeal the decision of the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit regarding the complaint we filed on behalf of Jilmar Ramos Gomez. We ask that the Civilian Appeals Board (CAB) conduct a comprehensive review of the interactions between the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding Mr. Ramos-Gomez, and require further investigation as needed by the Labor Relations Board. Because the evidence available clearly shows that Captain Curt VanderKooi racially profiled Mr. Ramos-Gomez and discriminated against him based on his race and disability, we also specifically request that the CAB overturn the finding of Internal Affairs exonerating Captain VanderKooi of violating the Impartial Policing Policy, and review the adequacy of the investigation into his use of derogatory and demeaning language, which resulted in mere coaching.

There are some new aspects to this most recent letter and the documents contained within it. First, the letter requests the following from the Civilian Appeal Board:

  • Reverse the IAU’s exoneration of Captain VanderKooi and find that he violated the Impartial Policing Policy
  • Review the adequacy of the investigation into the sustained charge of Discourtesy Review Captain VanderKooi’s actions to determine whether other policies were violated
  • Review the actions of all other GRPD officers involved in this incident; and
  • Review the broader policy issues this incident raises

Second, the ACLU and MIRC are appealing the findings of the GRPD’s Internal Affairs Unit for two reasons:

First, the investigation was incomplete in that it focused solely on Captain VanderKooi and did not look at whether other GRPD employees violated the impartial policing policy, such as Officer Adam Baylis, who failed to report Captain VanderKooi’s biased comments and turned a blind eye to ICE’s planned detention and deportation of a U.S. citizen. The investigation also failed to look at the inadequate and non-existent policies and procedures of the GRPD regarding ICE collaboration or treatment of individuals with mental illness, or our respected marine veterans.

Second, the finding of the Internal Affairs that Captain VanderKooi did not violate the GRPD’s Impartial Policing Policy should be overturned because the evidence already in the record clearly establishes that he engaged in racial profiling and disability-based discrimination by intentionally contacting ICE based on Mr. Ramos-Gomez’ Latino heritage and by mocking Mr. RamosGomez for his mental disability.

This new appeal from the ACLU and MIRC is significant for several reasons. First, because it challenges the authority of the Internal Affairs Unit, which is essentially cops investigating cops. Second, it expands the claims of bias beyond just race to now include disability bias. Lastly, the new appeal calls for changes to the Civilian Appeal Board Procedures. This last point is important because the Civilian Appeal Board does not have any real teeth and can only make recommendations. What the ACLU and MIRC are requesting would allow for more evidence in each case, along with public comment.

All of this is vital in the process of trying to make the GRPD more accountable to the community and to minimize the harm done to people, particularly to communities of color, which have been impacted by police bias and police violence.

Again, to read the entire letter, with all of the background information, click here

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