GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Police lieutenant is fighting back in an effort to keep his job.
The lieutenant is facing a termination hearing next month for his actions when a Kent County prosecutor was pulled over after drinking and driving the wrong way on a city street. But now he has filed a federal lawsuit against the city and his own department for violating his rights.
Lt. Matthew Janiskee is the only one of three officers who has not made a deal with the department to keep his job following the Nov. 19, 2016 incident caught on video.
Former Kent County assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper has resigned after police responded to the crash.
In recordings, the officer who pulled him over called his officer to say that he had Kuiper pulled over and that the prosecutor was “hammered.”
Janiskee was in charge and he tells the officer to stop talking and call 3407, a non-recorded police line used by police to make personal calls for investigations where the names of victims or confidential informants may be discussed.
However, it turns out the non-recorded line was recorded and now the city wants to use that recording against Janiskee.
The lawsuit — filed Friday — says making those recordings available for prosecution and to the public violates Janiskee’s rights.
Speaking Friday, attorney Andrew Rodenhouse said he believes this recording opens the city up to $100 million in liability.
He also says he believes that the city has been recording that line hundreds of time for more than two years and that is evidence that should have been made available to defense attorneys in who knows how many cases.
“I don’t think the city truly understands the potential consequence of recording this line. I know that going forward in every case I handle from now on, I’m going to be requesting the recording of that line,” Rodenhouse said.
Janiskee is a decorated 20-year policeman who is also married to a Kent County prosecutor.
For him, the accusations that he gave a member of the prosecutor’s office a special break makes for a pretty bad appearance as he fights to keep his job.
“Everyone gets breaks from police from time to time. If you get pulled over for going 15 over on the highway and they write you for five over, that’s the police officer exercising his discretion.”
The prosecutor from Kalamazoo investigated and found there was no violation of the law by the officers involved in the Nov. 19 incident where Kuiper was pulled over after speeding the wrong way on a city street, hitting a parked car and admitting he was drinking.
There was no breathalyzer and Kuiper was driven home.
But next month, Janiskee faces a hearing that could cost him his job and some of the evidence is a recording made off a department phone line that for decades has been used as a non-recorded line.
“The non-recorded line is the line that the police use when they are investigating crimes,” Rodenhouse said.
The city says the line was “inadvertently” recorded, but they have not explained how that happened.
“Somebody had to have turned it on, somebody had to have known about it,” Rodenhouse said. “This happened hundreds of times a day for at least two years.”
They hope that Janiskee can keep his job and the recordings will not be used against him or released to the public.
“The end result is we want him to keep his job and he wants to keep his job.”
During his press conference Friday, Rodenhouse also addressed what happened when Kuiper was pulled over and offered this as yet unheard explanation for Kuiper’s behavior in the video.
“However, I mean, when I look at it, I see a car that an airbag deployed in. I’ve played college football, so I know what a concussion looks like and it’s quite possible he had a concussion,” the attorney speculated.
Rodenhouse does not represent Josh Kuiper, so we’ll see if this theory is used in court.
In the meantime, Kuiper, who has since resigned from the prosecutor’s office, is now being charged with reckless driving causing serious injury and moving violation causing injury. He’s also being sued by the man injured in the crash
Janiskee’s termination hearing is scheduled for March 7.
On Wednesday, Sgt. Thomas Warwick accepted a demotion from sergeant to officer and a 160-hour suspension without pay, according to city spokesman Steve Guitar.
Last week, Officer Adam Ickes also reached a deal with the city to instead serve a 30-day suspension without pay.
Ickes and Warwick were previously suspended without pay as the incident was under investigation. It is not clear if the suspensions they got in exchange for keeping their jobs included time they were already off the job.
The city says Warwick and Ickes accepted responsibility for their mistakes in investigating the crash.
****CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Officer Thomas Warwick was suspended for 160 days, based on an earlier statement by the city spokesperson. He has since corrected that statement to 160 hours, which is reflected in the above story.***