Fired Officer to Rejoin Belding Police After Altercation
Now, that officer is back on the force.
It comes after a lengthy investigation lasting eight months, as an arbitrator finds Officer Jason Cooper’s punishment did not fit the crime.
The community of Belding rallied around the terminated officer along with the Police Officers Labor Council, saying the right decision has been made.
In November 2013, dozens protested the termination holding signs in front of a city council meeting.
“He’s been an asset to our community for 44 years, he`s been an asset to our police force and our citizens for 17 and we`re here asking that Officer Cooper get his job back,” Supporter Dan Blunt said at that meeting.
The woman who was punched in the stomach has since had her baby, and both are doing well. She says she never wanted to see anyone fired over the altercation.
“As policemen, we’re expected to be on a higher standard and set the example in the community and it puts us in a situation where we`re pretty much on duty 24 hours a day,” Police Chief Dale Nelson said when FOX 17 asked him about the termination in November.
It was Nelson and City Manager Meg Mullendore who made the decision to fire Cooper, a decision that has now been reversed through the arbitration process.
Will Keizer of the Police Officers Labor Council says Cooper didn’t do everything right in the situation, but his behavior didn’t rise to a level that would require termination.
Keizer tells FOX 17 the arbitrator agrees, saying an eight-day suspension is the appropriate punishment, reinstating Cooper with the Belding Police Department effective Monday. He’ll receive back pay aside from that eight-day suspension.
A look into Cooper’s personnel file obtained by the Freedom of Information Act shows several violations with the Belding Police Department in his 17 year tenure, including being fired once before in 2000. He also returned after arbitration then.
The file also notes Cooper’s accolades including the February 2013 fatal shooting of a man firing at a Michigan State Police trooper, potentially saving his life. The shooting was found justified by the prosecutor.
Keizer says Cooper will begin the process to get back in uniform shortly. Our calls to the Belding Police Chief and City Manager were not returned.