GRPD phone line maybe recorded for years

Legal battle over whether GRPD phone line was legally recorded

GRPD, Lt. Matthew Janiskee, phone, 3407
A photo from court documents filed in federal court by Matthew Janiskee's attorneys shows a GRPD phone lists line 3407 as "non recorded."

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New court documents say that a Grand Rapids Police Department phone line marked “non recorded” may have been recorded as far back as 2010 — but that it was by accident.

The documents filed Thursday are the latest in a legal battle surrounding the firing of GRPD Lt. Matthew Janiskee. The main points of contention in the case have been why a particular phone line was recorded and whether the recordings can be used against Janiskee or released to the public.

An undated courtesy photo of then-Grand Rapids Police Department Lt. Matthew Janiskee.

The recordings in question are from the night of Nov. 19, 2016, when then-Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper drove the wrong way down a Grand Rapids street, hitting a parked car and injuring its driver. The responding officer called headquarters and told Janiskee that Kuiper was “hammered.” Janiskee ordered the officer to switch to Line 3407, which was marked “not recorded” but unbeknownst to the officers was being recorded.

In the documents filed Thursday, the city’s attorney argued a judge should turn down Janiskee’s request looking for proof that command staff knew Line 3407 was being recorded. The attorney called that request a “fishing expedition” and said there’s nothing to indicate such proof exists.

The city has said all along that Line 3407 was recorded inadvertently but hasn’t previously provided an explanation for how that happened.

In the new filing, the city’s attorney suggested it was possible the line has been recorded as far back as 2010 when it was set up by a third-party vendor. The attorney said statements from GRPD Chief David Rahinksy, his two deputy chiefs and other officials show that no one ordered the line to be recorded and no one knew it was until December 2016 when they started investigating how the crash was handled.

The attorney also pointed out that no one had listened to any recordings from Line 3407 between 2010 and December 2016.

Janiskee says his rights were violated when the line was recorded without his knowledge, so the city shouldn’t be allowed to use the recordings against him. The city says it should be able to use the recordings because officers do not have an expectation of privacy while using police phones to conduct police business.

The city wants a judge to decide the matter before it goes to trial; the judge has not yet decided whether he will do so.

Meanwhile, Kuiper faces criminal charges in connection to the crash — but not drunken driving because his blood alcohol content level was never tested — and is being sued by the driver who was injured. He has since resigned from the prosecutor’s office.