BELDING, Mich. — More than 50 protestors armed with signs that said, “Bring Coop Back,” marched around City Hall in Belding in an attempt to get a former police officer back on the job.
Officer Jason Cooper was fired in late October following a bar fight which happened on October, 11.
He was fighting with another man in the parking lot of the Grattan Irish Pub after someone allegedly yelled a racial slur at him.
A pregnant woman said she was punched in the stomach while trying to break up that fight.
She had to go to the hospital due to resulting contractions.
“We’re here showing our support for officer Cooper,” said Dan Blunt, Cooper’s friend. “He’s been an outstanding officer for 17 years.”
Blunt was one of the main organizers of the picket.
He said he’s been one of Cooper’s best friends since they were children.
“I’ve known him for 39 years and he’s an upstanding honest person,” said Blunt.
Blunt was with Cooper at the bar in Grattan the night of the fight.
He said he was inside when the scuffle involving Cooper began outside in the parking area.
Blunt declined to comment on camera about what happened that night.
“I just assume not,” he said.
The union that represents Blunt has stated through a spokesperson that they think Blunt’s presence at the bar that night may be the reason that the punishment was so severe for Cooper.
Labor representative, Will Keizer, said Blunt is involved in a dispute with the city of Belding over whether or not he should be forced to put in a costly sidewalk project when he expands his business.
Keizer said that may have contributed to the city manager’s decision to fire Cooper.
“I think that some of this may have been personally motivated as a result of Mr. Dan Blunt being there,” said Keizer. “Dan is a friend of Jason’s and has had some business and personal relationships that have fallen apart with Mrs. Mullendore the city manager and now that this thing is playing out a little bit, it appears her judgment was clouded and she was excessive in her discipline as a result of the personal relationship.”
Blunt refrained from comment on that issue Tuesday.
“I’m going to hold off on that as well,” he said.
City Manager Meg Mullendore responded to those union claims Friday in a written statement.
She said, “I can assure you that the fact that Mr. Blunt was involved had no bearing on my assessment of Mr. Cooper’s behavior during the altercation. Any dispute that Mr. Blunt might have had with the City regarding a sidewalk was before my time as City Manager.”
“The issue here is whether a trained Belding Police Officer who, based on the reported evidence, physically attacked an individual who posed no immediate threat to him, should continue in the police service of the City,” said Mullendore.
Mullendore was not available to talk further regarding the protest on Tuesday afternoon.
Office staff told us she was gone for the day when we arrived at city offices at around 3:00 pm.
While the union goes through arbitration to try to get Cooper his job back, these picketers are hoping the city commissioners step in and override the manager’s decision.
“We just wanted the city officials to hear what the community has to say and see the support they are showing for him out here today,” said Blunt.
The city commission meeting begins at 7 pm in Belding.