City lawsuit: GR officers discussed ‘hammered’ ex-prosecutor in recorded calls

Posted at 10:29 PM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-03 22:29:57-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It’s not over for the 3 Grand Rapids Police officers who were fired from the department over the handling of a Nov. 19 crash involving former Kent County assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper.

Kuiper was allegedly drunk driving and going the wrong way down Union Avenue when he crashed into a parked car, injuring the owner of the vehicle. That person is now suing Kuiper.

Now, the city is looking to the federal court to clarify if they can release and use recorded phone calls on a line that is labeled “not recorded” in the police department. The officers used this line to communicate with Lt. Michael Janiskee, who was the watch commander the night of the accident.

The city said the line contains a big part of their investigation and reason for firing the police officers, but this could also be violating the law at the same time. According to the police officers’ unions, this is a violation of the Federal Wire Tapping Act and the Michigan Eavesdropping Act.

The city is hoping to use five calls between the three officers: Lt. Janiskee, Sgt. Thomas Warwick and Officer Adam Ickes.

These phone calls took place the night of the crash. According to the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association and Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association, those specific calls are off limits because they were private.

According to the documents filed on Friday, Officer Ickes called his watch Commander, Lt. Janiskee, on a recorded line, saying “this crash out here is Josh Kuiper from the prosecutor’s office that’s hammered, going the wrong way on Union.”

It was at that point that Lt. Janiskee told him to stop talking and call back on “3407."

“3407” is in reference to a line that’s not recorded. In fact, it is labeled “non-recorded line 3407” at the police station. During the internal investigation it was discovered that these calls were recorded, and the terms like “inadvertently” and "accidentally” recorded are used several times throughout the documents.

There were five phone calls in total on line 3407: three from Officer Ickes to Lt. Janiskee, and two from Sgt. Warwick to Lt. Janiskee. It was the discovery of these phone calls that led Chief David Rahinsky to ask Michigan State Police to do an investigation on the officers.

Now the police officers’ unions said this violates the Federal Wiretapping Act and the Michigan Eaves Dropping Act. Michigan requires at least one active participant in the conversation to know that the conversation is being recorded, and the unions said this didn’t happen.

The city said it was an unintentional recording not ordered by the city or any GRPD personnel, and because it happened by accident they should be able to use it.

Kuiper’s next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27 and if the officers do go forward with their termination hearings, those would be scheduled at the end of February.  The officers are not facing criminal charges.