Grand Rapids lieutenant's career hangs in balance pending hearing outcome

Grand Rapids leaders began a hearing to determine if a police lieutenant will be fired for his handling of a crash involving a county prosecutor who authorities say had been drinking.

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Grand Rapids leaders held a hearing Tuesday, March 7, to determine if a police lieutenant will be fired for his handling of an alcohol-related crash involving a local prosecutor.

The termination hearing for Lt. Matthew Janiskee was not open to the public and Janiskee's lawyer is not talking about it.

One city official -- City Manager Greg Sundstrom -- is talking on the record about the case, however.

It all stems from an alcohol-related crash back on Nov. 19, involving then-assistant Kent County prosecutor Joshua Kuiper, in which a man was injured. Kuiper was ticketed for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and given a ride home.

Related: Victim of crash involving Kent County assistant prosecutor: 'I flew 60 feet'

An internal investigation determined that three officers involved acted improperly. One of the officers called Janiskee to report that Kuiper was "hammered." Janiskee told him to stop talking and call back on a phone line he thought was unrecorded.

The city went to court to use those recordings against Janiskee at Tuesday's termination hearing. Janiskee counter-sued. Sundstrom said actions taken so far should not erode confidence and trust in the police department.

"This is one of those things that erodes that trust, but I also believe that we have a strong department with a high level of integrity and generally there is not good reason to question that trust," Sundstrom said. "I do not believe we have a problem.

"I think it was isolated and we took care of it quickly."

Sgt. Thomas Warwick was suspended without pay for 160 days anddemoted from sergeant to the rank of officer. Grand Rapids officer Adam Ickes received a 30-day unpaid suspension for his involvement.

Janiskee's case remains in limbo. There is no word when a decision will be reached.

A judge on Friday determined there was enough evidence to have Kuiper stand trial on a felony charge stemming from the wrong-way crash. If convicted, Kuiper faces up to five years in prison.

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