Grand Rapids, MI — In what some critics are calling the most egregious display of preferential treatment by police officers, the Grand Rapids Police Department is once again under fire.
A wrong-way car accident occurred in November 2016 when then Kent County assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper crashed into a parked vehicle, injuring its owner. On Wednesday, the GRPD released the audio recordings surrounding the incident that left one person injured and his car severely damaged. The recordings reveal a blatant cover-up that should have ended with a prosecutor's arrest, but instead resulted in him only getting a ticket.
Kuiper crashed into Daniel Empson's car as he was going the wrong way down a one-way street. The crash reportedly sent Empson flying and left his car a total wreck, causing injuries to Empson's body. After Officer Adam Ickes arrived at the scene of the accident, he made contact with Kuiper who admitted to Ickes that he has been drinking. Ickes immediately called his watch commander, Lt. Matthew Janiskee, at GRPD headquarters. He described Assistant Prosecutor Kuiper as being "hammered." Janiskee asked Ickes to call him on line 3407, a line which was believed to be free from any recording devices.
The Beginning of the Cover-Up
Ickes obliged and called Janiskee on the supposed unrecorded line. He told his superior Kuiper was "visibly intoxicated." The watch commander then asked him how much of the police contact was captured on body camera. Ickes indicated the whole interaction was captured. When asked how he thought Kuiper would do in a field sobriety test, Ickes responded, "probably not amazing."
"Let's pass him if we can. If we can't, we can't, Adam. We’re not going to get f—ked," Janiskee said. "I'd love to pass him on sobriety if we could."
"Alright, I’ll do what I can,” Ickes responded.
The Failed Field Sobriety Test
After Ickes administered the field sobriety test, he called Janiskee again and said the prosecutor had failed one of the three tests and refused to participate in a fourth (standing on one foot) saying his knee was hurting—supposedly from the accident. Janiskee seemed more interested in what the public was thinking.
"OK. How much has everybody seen there?," Janiskee asked Ickes. "Did the people say anything about, ‘Yeah, he’s drunk, f****** hammered,’ or anything like that?"
Ickes promised to nose around the scene to supposedly see if anyone recognized the prosecutor and whether or not they believed him to be drunk as well.
Decision Not To Charge Prosecutor With DUI/Arrival of Sgt. Warwick
Sgt. Thomas Warwick arrived on scene and took over the investigation. In the third call to GRPD headquarters, Warwick described the scene as well as the sobriety assistant prosecutor Kuiper.
"The uh (inaudible)… we’ve got him (inaudible) he’s f****** up. (Inaudible) He’s, he’s f***** up, but Adam did a good job. Um.. we uh, he blasted his f****** car, God d*** it," Warwick said.
The decision was then made to write Kuiper a ticket for going the wrong way down a one-way street. The sergeant and the watch commander then seemed to get their stories together about how it all went down, with the sergeant even attempting to blame the victim by saying he should not have been parked on the side of the road he was parked on.
"No, no, no, but that, Adam will be able to write that. Like he, yeah, Josh was going the wrong way, but there were no cars on that side of the road. So he, when he moved over, this car was parked and shouldn’t have been there," Warwick said.
In place of giving the prosecutor a DUI, the question was raised as to whether they should ticket Empson for having parked in the "no parking" zone where Kuiper hit him and his car. The fix was clearly in at that point. Warwick asked Janiskee how he should write it all up, but not before the decision was already made to give Kuiper a ticket for going the wrong way.
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The Investigation and The Fall Out
Janiskee's wife, Monica Janiskee, was also a prosecutor for Kent County and worked with Kuiper. In a fourth call between Warwick and Janiskee, the watch commander revealed he texted his wife (presumably as he refers to her as his "old lady"), and let her know that her co-worker in the prosecutor's office was involved in an accident, was cited, and admitted to drinking and driving. The two then began to talk about Christmas plans and how they should Uber home "in light of recent events."
In a fifth call, Janiskee indicated how he planned to run interference once his wife investigated the accident to see if charges should be filed against her co-worker in the prosecutor's office. Janiskee told Warwick he would "tell her not to" pull bodycam footage of the police contact with Kuiper.
"I’ll take care of that part. She will be smart enough not to dig into it," Janiskee said.
The two then discussed how an official investigation would lead to Janiskee getting "a day or two off" and joked about getting "pissed" about being placed on paid leave. As The Free Thought Project has reported, when police officers engage in illegal activity, they are often given a paid vacation while official investigations take place.
"This one was f****** hard. Anybody else, there’s probably only another one or two cops out here, other than Adam, that would have been able to discreetly do that. But, but the first part of his phone conversation to you might f*** us," the officer said.
Here is what the two discussed with Ickes in the background.
"I told that dumb son of a b**** that there’s four people in the world that know and no one else needs to. He is well aware of that" (Ickes).
"Right. I mean I know he understands. I just don’t want him to be like, ‘Oh my God, blah blah blah, I have to thank those guys, they did me a solid. We didn’t f****** do him anything" (Warwick).
Janiskee then ended the calls, describing their cover-up for a drunken prosecutor as "good work."
The Decision Not To Prosecute The Officers, Their Punishment Handed Down
Kalamazoo County was called in to conduct an investigation into the three GRPD officers involved in the alleged cover-up. In January, it was determined that all three would be suspended without pay. However, in February, GRPD Chief David Rahinsky and City Manager Greg Sundstrom arrived at a different plan of action—one which involved terminating Janiskee's employment. According to Calls for public apology after GRPD calls released" target="_blank" rel="noopener">WoodTV:
"In February, GRPD Chief David Rahinsky and Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom agreed to termination hearings for all three officers. However, the city reached agreements with the police union for a lighter punishment for two of them. Officer Adam Ickes was suspended for 30 days without pay; Warwick was suspended for 160 hours, demoted from sergeant to officer, and placed on a two-year probation. Janiskee was fired from his job. He is suing, claiming his rights were violated and he’s also seeking to get his job back. That case continues."
Upon the release of the audio recordings, several members of the Grand Rapids Community, including one local pastor and the American Civil Liberties Union, are up in arms, saying all three officers should have been fired.
They point to a recent scandal that drew national attention, which TFTP previously reported as proof that there is a systemic problem of corruption in the GRPD. In March, five Black children were held at gunpoint and forced to get on the cold sidewalk after being told by a GRPD officer to get on the ground because they matched the description of the suspects the officers were pursuing.
Empson is suing Kuiper and the three bars that are accused of over-serving Kuiper the night he allegedly drove drunk and injured the man. Meanwhile, Rahinsky defended his decision to recommend the firing of all three officers and reiterated his promise to be fully transparent with the community.
"There should be no conversation which takes place in this building (headquarters) that affects the community that we serve that we're not willing to share," Rahinsky said.