Sgt. Scot VanSolkema: Caught on Camera

In late November, two men carrying cameras walked into the Lowell police station. They were there to conduct what they called a “First Amendment audit,” a practice that seems to involve filming in a public place in the hopes of provoking a reaction and creating a viral video.

What the two men walking into Lowell City Hall probably didn’t expect was Sgt. Scot VanSolkema. The veteran police officer was unphased by their presence and after confirming they weren’t carrying weapons, invited them back to see the department’s framed copy of the Constitution.

It’s not the first time VanSolkema has found himself caught on camera. Seven years ago, he was filmed stopping motorists and then handing out holiday gifts during the traffic stops. That video was viewed millions of times and remains one of the most memorable experiences of VanSolkema’s career.

9/11 Spurred Entry into Law Enforcement

VanSolkema grew up in the Forest Hills area, where he still currently resides with his wife and daughter. He didn’t original plan to work in law enforcement and thought he might be a physician assistant. However, once enrolled at Western Michigan University, he switched gears and decided to major in criminal justice instead.

“It was interesting to learn,” VanSolkema says, but being a police officer still wasn’t on his radar. “I wanted to go to law school.”

Then, the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred in 2001. In the wake of the tragedy, VanSolkema decided to put his criminal justice background to work in the field of law enforcement. He returned to school to attend the police academy at Grand Rapids Community College.

After graduation, he spent one season as a part-time bike officer in Greenville before coming to Lowell in 2004. He was hired as a part-time officer but moved to a full-time position in 2005. Today, he is one of the most senior members of the department, second only to Police Chief Chris Hurst.

Piecing Together Clues to Solve Cases

Police officers in Lowell can fill many roles. As the department’s second-in-command, VanSolkema fills in for Hurst as needed and completes administrative duties as well as patrols neighborhoods and responds to calls.

What he enjoys most, though, is working on difficult cases that would possibly be overlooked in other, larger departments. “The cases I really like are more the white-collar fraud type of cases,” VanSolkema says.

Here’s an example: the Lowell Police Department was once contacted by someone who was selling a house and had allowed a woman to move in before the sale was finalized. The woman promised to pay rent but never did. Six months later, the purchase hadn’t been completed either.

In a larger department, the citizen may have been advised to that this matter would have to be resolved through a civil court case. However, VanSolkema investigated and discovered this woman had a habit of moving into houses, not paying rent and then destroying or stealing property before moving on. Ultimately, she was charged with malicious destruction of property and other crimes.

VanSolkema also was the officer to crack the county’s first swatting case. Swatting involves someone calling in a fake emergency to 911 and sending police to an unsuspecting victim’s house. It’s a dangerous practice – both for police as well as those at the residence.

In the Lowell case, a person made a hoax 911 call to say someone had been stabbed and two people were being held hostage in the city. Using a combination of YouTube sleuthing and search warrants, VanSolkema finally tracked down the illegal call to a teen in North Carolina.

Christmas Gifts During Traffic Stops

Of all VanSolkema’s experiences as part of the Lowell Police Department, perhaps none can top a holiday giveaway from 2014.

The idea came from Rob Bliss, a Grand Rapids native who has been behind a number of unscripted videos. He wanted to share some Christmas spirit and asked the Lowell Police Department to pull over vehicles so that his team could arrange for the drivers to be gifted with presents.

“The first day it just happened to be my day of work,” VanSolkema says. He was outfitted with a microphone, and Bliss had a team of people at Meijer to purchase items as soon as the driver revealed what was on their Christmas list. Then, they wrapped what they could and drove down Main Street to VanSolkema who was stalling for time.

He did such a good job that the crew asked him to make stops the second day as well. Overall, about 40-45 cars were stopped and drivers left with everything from TVs to video game systems to gift cards. What they didn’t get were tickets – even though all the stops were real.

“We had to have actual legitimate stops,” VanSolkema explains. To legally pull people over, a spotter was used to find cars that were committing minor infractions, such as going a mile or two over the speed limit, dangling items from their rearview mirror or having snow covering a portion of their license plate.

The video posted to the City of Lowell YouTube channel has received 8.5 million views and was featured by shows such as Good Morning America and Today, where the video was reshared and received millions more views. VanSolkema was interviewed by news outlets as far away as Australia for his part in the giveaway. “It was a very cool thing to do,” he says.

Working Hard to Help Citizens

Even when the cameras aren’t rolling, VanSolkema isn’t the type of cop who likes to give tickets.

“We’re not out there to hammer people,” he says. Rather than make someone’s bad day even worse, he prefers to offer a warning when appropriate. “A lot of what we do is really educational.”

At the end of the day, being a police officer is about helping others. And that seems to be something Sgt. VanSolkema does very well.


  1. This is the same clown who illegally entered Forest Hills Northern public school by circumventing the protection put in place for the students while searching for Antifa? And now has a restraining order against him?

    Oh yeah, this is him.

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