GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A Michigan Court of Appeals judge ordered the City of Grand Rapids to release five phone recordings between police officers who investigated a wrong-way crash involving a former Kent County Prosecutor. Released Wednesday, the calls reveal an attempted police cover-up.
The crash happened Nov. 19, 2016: former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Josh Kuiper allegedly drove the wrong way down a one-way in Grand Rapids intoxicated. Officer Adam Ickes, who responded to the crash, and former Sgt. Thomas Warwick and Lt. Matthew Janiskee spoke to each other discussing how to cover-up their crash report using a city phone line '3407' they believed was not recorded. The officers initially let Kuiper go, even though he was apparently intoxicated and injured another man getting into his vehicle during the crash.
"The whole incident is appalling," said Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky Wednesday, immediately after the tapes were released.
"It undercuts our credibility in the community. It discredits what we’ve worked so hard to create, which is trust and transparency. It doesn’t represent the hard work of the men and women in this department.”
Phone calls and radio traffic from the night of the crash were already released. In the calls, Janiskee tells Ickes to call 3407. Police say that line is usually used for sensitive information, like the names of victims. However, officials now say the line has been recorded for years and is still in use. Wednesday the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on the lawsuit MLive filed against the city, ordering the recordings MLive initially requested via the Freedom of Information Act be released.
In the five phone call recordings, the three officers are heard laughing at points about the situation, and then discussing how much and what paperwork would need to be done for the incident. The attempted cover-up plan went further when former Lt. Janiskee said he texted his wife, who works at the Kent County Prosecutor's Office. He told Sgt. Warwick that night:
"I said that [Kuiper] was involved in an accident, going the wrong way, he got a ticket and 'had been drinking' was checked on the box, here’s the report number. So that’s basically how it’s going to look when she reads it. She’ll ask me about it and I’ll just give her a look like, ‘uh huh.’”
When Sgt. Warwick asked if Lt. Janiskee's wife would dig for footage on this incident, the Lt. responded: "No. 'Cause I'll f---ing tell her not to."
"That’s extremely troubling," said Chief Rahinksy, in response to the officers speaking about involving a prosecutor.
"That portion of the conversation I’m afraid is going to solidify any conception that someone may have that the system is rigged against some, and rigged in favor of others."
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker also tells FOX 17 he has not listened to the tapes and did not know about the incident until about 18 hours after the wrong-way crash. He added that he, Monica Janiskee, who is married to former Lt. Janiskee, and former Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth "did not advise, consult, or recommend any course of action to the Grand Rapids Police Department when they were dealing with former Assistant Prosecutor Josh Kuiper."
He added Monica Janiskee never responded to her husband's text the night of the Nov. 2016 incident.
Note: there is some strong language in the calls.
Rahinsky also said as soon as he heard these tapes, he and city officials immediately suspended the involved officers; contacted the City Attorney; asked State Police to investigate; then presented this to the Kalamazoo Prosecutor, who later declined criminal charges against the officers.
Janiskee was fired from the department and is suing the Grand Rapids Police for privacy issues regarding the tapes in U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo, claiming he was illegally recorded. Warwick was demoted and suspended for 160 hours. Ickes was also suspended for 160 hours.