Court: GRPD phone recordings must be released

News outlet sued to get recordings of police response to ex-prosecutor's crash

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) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has decided that recordings of phone calls between Grand Rapids police officers about a former prosecutor’s car crash must be released to the media.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, Target 8, The Grand Rapids Press and other media outlets asked for recordings of the calls, but the requests were denied by the city of Grand Rapids. MLive Media Group, which owns The Grand Rapids Press, sued to get the recordings and the Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case last week.

On Tuesday, MLive posted the court’s ruling on its website. It shows the court decided in the newspaper’s favor.

It’s not yet clear when the recordings will be made public.

On Nov. 19, 2016, then-Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper drove the wrong way down a Grand Rapids street, hit a parked car and injured its driver. The responding officer called Grand Rapids Police Department headquarters and told Lt. Matthew Janiskee, who was the watch commander that night, that Kuiper was “hammered.” Janiskee ordered the officer to switch to Line 3407. That line was marked “not recorded,” but actually was being taped — inadvertently, the city says.

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

Janiskee, who lost his job over the way the crash was handled, has been fighting to keep the recordings private. He argued they should not be released or used against him in disciplinary proceedings because he did not know the phone line he was using was being recorded. 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.

Still, the city asked a federal court to determine if the recordings violate a federal wiretapping law. The city insists the recordings are legal, but wanted a judge to confirm its opinion before making them available. That decision is still pending.

Kuiper, who resigned from the prosecutor’s office after the crash, faces criminal charges and is being sued by the driver who was injured.