GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids police officer previously demoted for his role in a controversial incident has been named the 2019 Patrol Officer of the Year.
Officer Tom Warwick was part of the group that allowed former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper to go home after crashing into a parked car while driving the wrong way, despite evidence suggesting he was under the influence.
Warwick, who was a sergeant at the time, was demoted and suspended for 160 hours for his role in the November 2016 incident, along with the subsequent cover-up attempt.
“I let people down," Warwick said. "I let everyone out there (down) that night -- my family, my GRPD family, even the citizens. I realize and I recognize that."
Warwick said he had a lot of responsibility and deserves a lot of blame for how the night panned out.
“I own those mistakes," he said. "I think if I could turn back the clock and just be better. That’s really all I have to say about that. I would have just done my job better."
Since then, Warwick has been working hard every day as a member of the patrol team to make up for his mistake.
“This has been ... one of my favorite teams to work for,” he said. “In 15 years, you have worked for a lot of different teams, but this feels like a really complete team.”
His supervisors have noticed his efforts.
“I’ve been supervising Officer Warwick for approximately three years," Sgt. Thomas Bush said. "He goes above and beyond."
One example would be Warwick's work following a house fire in Grand Rapids around the holidays, in which a family lost all of its gifts. Warwick replaced all of them.
He says he hopes it's moments like that that define him, rather than being remembered for his worst mistake as a member of law enforcement.
“You could bury your head in the sand and blame other people, but that’s not my personality,” Warwick said, adding that he is actively using his mistake to better himself and set an example for the next generation.
“I think law enforcement is a very important job, but I think being a father is the most important job I’ll ever have -- that anybody could ever have,” he said. “I don’t know how I could successfully raise children and have that be my response when things go wrong.”
In addition to helping that family after the fire, the Patrol Officer of the Year award recognized him for helping to organize the Robert Kozminski basketball tournament, and for getting a group of officers together to attend the funeral of a 5-year-old Ionia boy who had a love of law enforcement.
OTHER 2019 HONOREES
Detective Steve Weirsma and Sheila Brow, a crime scene technician, were also recognized by GRPD for the outstanding work they did in 2019.
Weirsma, who works with the Children's Advocacy Center solving cases of child sexual abuse, was honored for his administrative and detective work.
“The fact that my peers made this selection makes it extra special," he said. "It makes you realize that you’re doing things that make a difference. For people to see that, it’s extra special.”
Brow was awarded Civilian Employee of the Year for her efforts in collecting evidence at crime scenes across Grand Rapids.
“Just, very much surprised," she said. "I really feel like it’s a joint effort. Anyone could be a winner of this amazing award."