Internal Affairs: Officers made ‘false statements’ about crash

1 officer fired, 2 others disciplined for handling of ex-prosecutor's crash

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


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An Internal Affairs Unit report obtained by Target 8 shows discrepancies between what happened the night a former Kent County assistant prosecutor crashed after a night of drinking and what Grand Rapids Police Department officers stated in their reporting.

The investigation was launched at GRPD Chief David Rahinsky’s request, but only after Target 8 began asking questions. An anonymous tip received in December 2016 led Target 8 to start investigating former Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper’s wrong-way crash into a parked car, which had happened the month prior.

The first page of the Internal Affairs report, obtained Wednesday via the Freedom of Information Act, states now-fired Lt. Matthew Janiskee called a deputy chief on Dec. 2, two weeks after the crash because now-retired “Kent County prosecutor William Forsyth had just called (Janiskee) and was upset with him because Kuiper had not been arrested for drunk driving on November. 19, 2016. Janiskee also shared that WOOD-TV was on the way to interview Prosecutor Forsyth… questioning whether Kuiper had been given preferential treatment…”

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the fallout of the crash

ADDITIONAL WITNESSES

The report shows Internal Affairs investigators made contact with at least two witnesses who noted Kuiper was visibly drunk the night of the crash. One woman, whose name was redacted from the report, stated “that she could smell alcohol on Kuiper’s breath and she could tell he was under the influence of something by how he was acting.”

Another witness was apparently present in the immediate aftermath of the crash. He told an investigating sergeant he wasn’t close enough to smell alcohol, but could tell Kuiper “struggled to formulate sentences.” The report goes on to state the witness watched Kuiper be released and “approached Officer (Adam) Ickes to question him on why Kuiper was not arrested… based on (the witnesses’) original observations that Kuiper was intoxicated.”

The witness said Ickes, the first officer on the scene, told him Kuiper passed the sobriety tests. Kuiper was never given a breathalyzer test.

DASHCAM AND BODYCAM

The report explains Ickes’ in-car video (ICV) was never available because he “improperly classified his video related to this event as a ‘non-event’ which resulted in the video being automatically purged from the system after 7 days.”

Had he classified it correctly, it would have been saved in the system for 120 days and available for review.

It also states that when then-Sgt. Thomas Warwick joined Ickes at the scene, his ICV “proved to have limited value. Warwick parked a distance away and walked up to the scene. (His) body cam microphone was not working, so there is no audio on the video, other than what occurred (when Warwick drove Kuiper to his mother’s home)… The conversation… revolved around directions to Kuiper’s mother’s house and proved to be of limited value.”

There are also gaps in the audio and accusations that Ickes was turning his body camera on and off manually while at the scene.

LINE 3407 UNCOVERED

Approximately half way through the Internal Affairs report, it’s noted an IT liaison found the recordings of five calls at the center of a lawsuit still pending between Janiskee and the department. GRPD officers thought calls on Line 3407 were not being recorded, but they were. Internal Affairs reviewed the calls Dec. 7, 2016.

In those calls, Janiskee directed Ickes to call 3407 after he initially reported Kuiper was involved in the crash and was “hammered.”

The recordings were made public last month after MLive filed a lawsuit to get them.

>>Audio recordings and full transcript of phone calls

OFFICERS INTERVIEWED

After the discovery of the 3407 calls, Internal Affairs officers interviewed Ickes, Janiskee and Warwick. Most of the interview details were redacted in the version of the report provided to Target 8, but they influenced Internal Affairs’ findings, according to the report summary.

The report states Ickes’ interview statements were “in direct contradiction to the accounts of witnesses… The answers that Officer Ickes provides… are provided to be false and misleading statements. It also determined that Officer Ickes falsified portions of the report that he completed that documented the crash, in order to conceal the fact (that) Kuiper was intoxicated.”

The report also found “statements made by Warwick during the interview… (are) determined to be false and misleading statements.”

The report also found the entire investigation to be “influenced by Janiskee” and that all three men “neglected their duty and responsibility to properly investigate this incident during which, a citizen was seriously injured. They, instead, concentrated their efforts on how they would not arrest an intoxicated Kuiper, solely because they knew Kuiper and Kuiper worked as a prosecutor.”

Janiskee was the only man fired after the investigation, though he’s suing to get his job back. Warwick and Ickes were both suspended, and Warwick was demoted.

The man whose car Kuiper struck and who was injured in the crash, Daniel Empson, is suing Kuiper and the bars he was reportedly drinking at that night. Kuiper also faces criminal charges in the case, but not of drunken driving because he blood alcohol content level was not recorded the night of the crash.