MLive files FOIA lawsuit against city of Grand Rapids

John Agar | jagar@mlive.comBy John Agar | 
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on March 11, 2017 at 9:03 AM, updated March 11, 2017 at 9:12 AM

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The Grand Rapids Press and MLive filed a lawsuit Friday over the city of Grand Rapids' refusal to release recorded phone calls of police handling the crash of a former prosecutor who one officer described as "hammered."

The calls, on a phone line designated "non-recorded," could help explain why former Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Josh Kuiper was not asked to take a breath test for alcohol at the scene. Instead, police drove Kuiper home.

"The Grand Rapids Press and MLive are committed to fighting for access to records that show the actions of public officials," said John Hiner, vice president of content for MLive Media Group. "In this instance, officials cannot even cite a legal exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. We shouldn't have to sue for what is clearly in the public realm, but we have confidence that the law is in our favor."

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Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom said Friday that the city wants to release the recordings and use them in its case to fire Lt. Matthew Janiskee. But he said the city cannot release them without the approval of a federal judge.

The city filed a federal lawsuit last month in hopes a judge would resolve the city's dispute with police unions over whether the calls between Janiskee and two other officers on the "non-recorded" line could be used in disciplinary proceedings.

"We probably agree with you (The Press and MLive) because our case is that we should be able to release them," Sundstrom said. "It's the other side that thinks we should not. I don't want to upset the federal judge."

"We look forward to the judge making a decision on whether these recordings can be released or not," Sundstrom added. "And if he says yes, you will have them promptly."

Officer told to 'stop' describing 'hammered' prosecutor in 25-second call

Officer told to 'stop' describing 'hammered' prosecutor in 25-secon...

A recorded phone call between police officers released by the Grand Rapids Police Department reveals part of the story behind why city officials recommended they be fired.

In its lawsuit filed in Kent County Circuit Court, The Grand Rapids Press and MLive say the city's reference to the federal lawsuit in denying the records request is insufficient. The media group alleges that the city, by filing a federal lawsuit, has in effect tried to create its own exemption for denial of Freedom of Information Act requests.

The city fails to cite any applicable exemptions to Michigan's Freedom of Information Act in its denial letter, the lawsuit says.

The telephone recordings "sought by MLive are essential to vindicating the public's interest in monitoring the investigation ... and the events that followed," the lawsuit says. "The conversations of city police officials on a recorded telephone line during the investigation of a car crash undeniably constitute 'public records' within the meaning of the FOIA."

The Grand Rapids Press and MLive also filed a motion for summary disposition, and a request for immediate disclosure of records, along with attorney fees, costs, fines and $1,000 in punitive damages.

Ex-prosecutor to stand trial for felony in wrong-way crash that injured man

Ex-prosecutor to stand trial for felony in wrong-way crash that inj...

Former Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Josh Kuiper was ordered bound over to Kent County Circuit Court charged with reckless driving causing serious injury.

The controversy stems from Kuiper's accident on Nov. 19. Kuiper crashed his pickup truck into a parked car, injuring a man, while going the wrong-way on Union Avenue SE south of Fulton Street.

At about 12:30 a.m., responding Officer Adam Ickes called the watch commander's desk and told Janiskee that Kuiper was "hammered." That brief exchange between Ickes and Janiskee was made on a known recorded telephone line and the recording was previously released by the city following a FOIA request.

Shortly after Ickes started talking, Janiskee told him to "stop." A moment later, Janiskee said, "3407," the telephone line officers thought was non-recorded.

Police officials later learned that five calls from the scene, by Ickes and then-Sgt. Thomas Warwick to Janiskee, were actually recorded on line 3407.

Ickes and Warwick were suspended, while Warwick was also demoted. The city is pushing to fire Janiskee.

Janiskee, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging the conversations on line 3407 were recorded illegally and that his rights were violated.

Kuiper was later charged with reckless driving causing serious injury, a five-year felony, but no alcohol-related offenses. He had been at a retirement party for former Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth. Janiskee's wife, Monica, is the county's chief assistant prosecutor.

MLive staff reporter Amy Biolchini contributed to this report.

Police officer's suspension far shorter than city originally said

Police officer's suspension far shorter than city originally said

The city of Grand Rapids incorrectly said former Sgt. Thomas Warwick was suspended for 160 days. But, in fact, the suspension is for 160 hours.

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Reminds me of my own FOIA block by the Kent County Sheriff just a couple of years ago.  The more 'progressive' the public body the more unwilling they are to allow you to see records you have every right to see. 

Proof is the only thing that keeps the boot lickers quiet. Otherwise, these cop lovers just attack the messenger as always. I have noticed over the last year of trolling that more people are starting to see the light. More people are willing to challenge law enforcement and comment against these deplorable actions of law enforcement. People are beginning to see that without accountability and transparency we all end up living in a very dangerous world. Kudos to MLive!   Your hard work to obtain FOIA's is what I needed to validate my sanity! This corruption is real and it happens everyday. We need to fight harder for FOIA's and hold those who block access to be locked up!

“The bottom line here, with regards to the officer’s actions that n...

Above quoted and linked to Fox 17 West Michigan.

Police are under no obligation to arrest, investigate or even question anyone they don't want to.  The prosecutors are not under any obligation to file charges against anyone.  Nice state of affairs for those who break the law and have friends in "blue" their "co-workers and other members of the system."  

I witnessed this with my own eyes, otherwise  I would have never believed it was true.  Sometimes the lowest of low wear funny costumes to make themselves appear to be one of the "good guys." 

Basically, the law only applies when someone wants it to apply and when it is one of "their own" who has been negatively impacted, look out, hell hath no furry! 

When it is one of your own or you that has been harmed all bets are off.  The weight of that wrong will likely be measured by the age/sex/ethnicity of the victim or the degree of "wrong"  as determined by those in blue before something is done.  Then and ONLY then may something possibly be done.  

Those in blue/positions of authority and their "friends" typically think of themselves as the "good guys" in most situations because they believe they are not as bad as "the bad guy." 

The standard of American legal jurisprudence is four simple words, so important that they are engraved on the front of the Supreme Court Building  in all caps:  EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW.

This ideal is struck down when prosecutors and police act the way they did here all in order to save their fellow official from what they would gladly pursue if it was a non-official who drove the wrong way and crashed while hammered. 

It gets even sicker when the GRPD ignores FOIA laws, snubbing their nose once again at the public, even when the requester is a 'friendly' medium-- The Grand Rapids Press doesn't hold the local police accountable by any means. 

There is no EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW....not matter where it is engraved...that is a huge fallacy that makes some feel better.  Just like the  separation of Church and State....then meeting are started with prayer.

The problem with FOIA is they can say they have no records if they choose and it is up to the citizen/ requesting party to prove they are lying.

I was told back when my brother was killed, beware of the prosecutors office, they are "in bed" with the police.  After all was said and done, I can say I believe this to be true and is evidenced again and again and again by cases just like this.  They protect their own first and foremost.  The rest of us be damned if it comes ahead of their agenda or their personnel/ friends/family. 

The voice recording above indicates they knew "one of their own" was caught....time to hide it and be quite lest they expose their bed mates. 

Transparency includes ownership....something many are not brave enough to do. 

A crash in Kentwood (in GR) occurred yesterday claiming the life of two people.  The state police tried to pull over a vehicle, but the car wouldn't and a chase ensued.  Leading to a fiery crash at an intersection that killed the passenger of the car being chased and a young woman innocently crossing the intersection in her own vehicle.  In the video of the WOOD story about it the reporter Leon Hendrix poses the questions at the end that come to my mind:  Did the officer who gave chase handle the situation appropriately?  Should the chase have taken place?

In reviewing the three media reports on the crash, the MSP refuse to say why their trooper tried to stop the vehicle in the first place nor are they likely to volunteer their radio traffic or dash cam video without a struggle and extortive costs.  

This is a main reason why police should not light-heartedly conduct traffic stops to give out Christmas presents or citations for safe driving habits; it could initiate a chase situation and deaths like these.  That also goes for situation like when LPD played matchmaker.   

Human lives have become an expendable commodity.  A few lawyers and some mumbo jumbo talk and it was all justified and it's all put away.....except for the families whose lives have been ripped to shreds.

These things happen every day....the game of "good guy" vs "bad guy" and typically those truly responsible stand pointing fingers instead of working harder to avoid such events in the first place.

I'm deeply sad for this young woman, her family and friends.  Their nightmare begins and they will have to fight the police to even begin to learn what has happened.  I hope for them someone stands up to assist them through this and it isn't an attorney interested in lining their pockets.

The chase needed to end before 52nd. Chasing someone into that intersection was poor judgement. The cop had to realize that was not going to end well if he pushed them into that 55-65mph intersection, and he proceeded. That is a real lack of concern for others lives. But, as we all know the cop will be investigated by his friends and they will find no wrong doing. They feel they are the heroes in these situations and will gladly accept an award over the grave of this dead girl. Will they show any remorse?


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