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Advocacy groups file civil rights complaint against Grand Rapids police

Posted: 1:31 PM, Apr 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-30 17:31:21-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/FOX 17) — Immigrant and civil liberties advocacy groups have filed complaints against Grand Rapids police with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in cases involving people of Latino descent.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center announced the actions on Tuesday. They allege the police department discriminated against a mentally ill war veteran in November and a 15-year-old boy last month.

"We see just an incredibly high volume of inappropriate contacts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Captain Vanderkooi (being) exonerated from any wrongdoing in those instances, reinstated without a policy put in place," said Hillary Scholten with Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

The groups say in a release the department "can't be trusted to police itself."

They allege an officer violated the man's rights by contacting immigration officials even though he's a U.S. citizen. They add another officer did the same by drawing a gun on the teen, who jaywalked and pulled away when grabbed.

"Even when you have a policy -- and you see this in the second incident with the youth -- you have a youth interaction policy, but it is not followed," said Miriam Aukerman with the ACLU of Michigan. "If the police had been followed, a warning would have been given, the kids would have been told, 'hey you shouldn't be walking in the street.' They get off the street, that would have been the end of it.

"That's what would've happened in a white neighborhood."

The groups say they hope the complaints will force the departments to change what they call discriminatory practices.

"Police accountability is up to all of us, we have to demand it for ourselves," Scholten said.

City officials and Grand Rapids police say they are reviewing the complaints and don't have a response at this time.