Federal judge to decide if GRPD crash calls will be released

Left to right: former Lt. Matthew Janiskee, Officer Thomas Warwick, and Officer Adam Ickes.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County judge’s ruling Wednesday means it’s up to a federal judge decide if Grand Rapids must release phone call recordings between its officers the night a then-assistant county prosecutor caused an alcohol-related crash.

MLive Media Group sued the city in hopes of getting their Freedom of Information Act request honored.

Lawyers for MLive Media Group and the city of Grand Rapids argue over whether recorded police calls must be publicly released. (May 3, 2017)

Just like 24 Hour News 8, MLive Media Group filed the FOIA to the city in hopes of getting access to recorded conversations between officers on the scene of the crash and their command staff.

GRPD officers didn’t give former assistant prosecutor Joshua Kuiper a breathalyzer test after he crashed into a parked car while driving the wrong way on Union Avenue SE.

The crash happened around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 19 and injured the car’s owner.

Police reports show that alcohol was a factor in the crash, but the police report stated Kuiper was able to “perform well on the alphabet and hand dexterity.” GRPD gave him a ticket and then-Sgt. Thomas Warwick drove him to a nearby home.

24 Hour News 8 learned in December that Ickes called former GRPD Lt. Matthew Janiskee from the scene of the crash, telling him that Kuiper was involved in a crash and he was ‘hammered’ going the wrong way on Union Ave.

Janiskee reportedly told Ickes to stop talking and call on “3407” which is an unrecorded line in the watch commander’s office. However, that line did record their conversation.

MLive Media Group filed a lawsuit for the city to release the recordings, but Kent County Judge Joseph Rossi rejected the motion Wednesday.

Rossi said while MLive Media Group’s attorney had a compelling argument, he could not rule in the media outlet’s favor due to a pending lawsuit.

Before MLive Media Group filed its lawsuit, the city of Grand Rapids filed a federal lawsuit for a judge to decide if five phone calls made to the “3407” line can be used in determining disciplinary action against the officers or released to the public through FOIA request by 24 Hour News 8 and other media members.

Janiskee, who was fired from the force in March, also filed a federal lawsuit against the city and the Grand Rapids Police Department, saying making those recordings available for prosecution and to the public violates his rights.

Rossi said that he understood the argument of releasing the information sooner due to public interest, but doing so could create more problems in the future, should a federal judge rule against releasing those phone call recordings.

Attorneys for the city said Wednesday that they want to be transparent, but do not want to violate the law, as there could be personal or legal information accidentally released.

A federal judge could still rule to release the “3407” phone call recordings completely or partially redacted.