The city of Grand Rapids on Wednesday released recorded phone calls related to a wrong way crash involving a Kent County assistant prosecutor last November; recordings the police chief called "embarrassing and abhorrent.''
The obscenity-laced conversations between three police officers include discussions about the crash, an upcoming Christmas party and sex.
Officers thought they were talking on a non-recorded line. The line was actually recorded.
Several media outlets filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the recordings, but the City of Grand Rapids refused to provide them.
MLive Media Group then filed a lawsuit to have those calls released to the public. The Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Sept. 12 said the recordings should be released. The city did so on Wednesday.
In the recordings, officers discuss a Nov. 19 crash on Union Avenue SE involving assistant prosecutor Joshua Kuiper, who was returning home from a retirement party for his outgoing boss. Kuiper struck a parked vehicle, injuring a man retrieving his coat.
Kuiper was given a ticket for going the wrong way on a one-way street. Police did not conduct a breath test to determine his blood alcohol level.
The newly-released recordings include colorful language by officers as they discuss how to handle the investigation. Two of the officers involved were suspended and a police lieutenant was fired.
Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky called the incident "appalling.''
"It contradicts everything this agency stands for,'' Rahinsky said at a Wednesday news conference. "It undercuts our credibility with the community; it doesn’t represent the hard work of the men and women of this department.’’
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting was asked to investigate the case for Kent County. He authorized two charges against Kuiper: reckless driving causing injury, a five-year felony, and a misdemeanor charge of moving violation causing injury.
The probe also examined conduct of the three police officers involved: Lt. Matthew Janiskee, Sgt. Thomas Warwick and officer Adam Ickes. Janiskee was fired; his co-workers were suspended. Warwick was also demoted.
Janiskee's wife, Monica Janiskee, works in the Kent County Prosecutor's Office. Part of the recordings include discussions on whether she would get involved in the investigation. She did not. Lt Janiskee says in one of the recorded conversations that he will wave her off.
"I’ll f------ tell her not to,’’ he says. “If she does dig, I’ll end up getting a f------ day or two off and then I’ll really be f------ pissed.’’
Those comments did not sit well with Rahinsky.
“Obviously we took what occurred much more seriously than he did, and that mindset won’t be tolerated here,’’ Rahinsky said. "The decisions he made that night ended a 23-year career. There’s no one who isn’t held to a high standard.’’
Grand Rapids attorney Andrew Rodenhouse, who is representing Janiskee in a federal lawsuit linked to his termination, accused Rahinsky of "posturing.''
"These are officers just speaking as they would, thinking they’re not being recorded,'' Rodenhouse said. “These guys are just talking shop because they don’t think they’re being listened to.''
Janiskee authorized a breath test on Kuiper, but it was not conducted, Rodenhouse said.
“He tells ‘em, look, at the end of the day, we’re not going to lie for the guy,'' Rodenhouse said. "He should not have been fired.''
The full transcripts and audio recordings are below, please beware they contain adult language.
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