Grand Rapids police say calls unintentionally recorded

Associated Press

Grand Rapids — A phone line that a western Michigan police department has used since 2010 has recorded conversations even though it was marked “non-recorded.”

Grand Rapids officials say in documents filed in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Michigan on Thursday that the phone line’s recording was accidental and that no one at the city knew it was happening up until December 2016.

The documents filed are part of a lawsuit the city initiated in February, asking a judge to rule whether recordings on the line could be used as evidence as they investigated the conduct of three officers — or if they broke laws in “accidentally” recording the calls.

The recorded phone line was discovered as internal investigators examined how those officers handled a November 2016 wrong-way crash by former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Josh Kuiper, who hit a parked car and injured its driver. Responding officer Adam Ickes told then-Lt. Matthew Janiskee that Kuiper appeared intoxicated, but the prosecutor wasn’t charged for driving while under the influence.

Janiskee then ordered Ickes to switch to the phone line marked “non-recorded,” even though the conversations were being recorded. The five phone calls on the line between the officers as they investigated the crash haven’t been made public.

Janiskee, who was fired for his involvement in directing the crash investigation, filed a motion for discovery, trying to find out who asked that the line be recorded. Janiskee said his rights were violated when he was unknowingly recorded and that the city shouldn’t be allowed to use the recordings against him.

The documents filed Thursday by the city attorney argued Janiskee’s request be turned down, calling it a “fishing expedition,” and said there’s nothing to indicate such proof exists. The city said it should be able to use the recordings because officers don’t have an expectation of privacy when using police phones.

Deputy Chief David Kiddle said he was unaware the phone line was recording before December 2016.

It’s still undecided as to whether the matter will go before a trial.