GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids is responding to a lawsuit that pits the city against its police union and a fired lieutenant over calls recorded on a phone line officers believed to be non-recorded.
The calls on those line involved the traffic stop of a former assistant prosecutor who, despite saying he had been drinking, was not given a breathalyzer test.
Now, the city has filed a 72-page response to the allegations that it was purposefully recording police on a private line and is now using those recordings against them in violation of federal wiretapping laws.>>Inside woodtv.com: City of Grand Rapids reply to Janiskee suit (pdf)
It all started on Nov. 19 when an officer called in to say that he had pulled over then assistant prosecutor Joshua Kuiper driving the wrong way on a city street and striking a parked, occupied car.
Dispatch recordings have the officer identified Kuiper as a prosecutor and said he was “hammered.”
The officer is immediately told to call “3407” — a line that police believed was not recoded like the usual police phone lines.
But the city claims it “inadvertently recoded that line that night.”
Now, the City of Grand Rapids is asking the court to decide whether the calls can be used in determining disciplinary action against the officers or released to the public through FOIA requests by 24 Hour News 8 and other media agencies.
Police unions and Janiskee contend the recorded calls cannot be used in the disciplinary process or released because it would violate the Federal Wiretapping Act and the Michigan Eavesdropping Act.
The city says that this is not a class action suit because only Janiskee is left, the other officers have agreed to a settlement with the city that allows the conversations to be released to the public — and allows them to keep their jobs
The city also continues to claim that the lines were inadvertently recorded in contrast to the claims of the suit which accused the city of purposely recording them.
The city also says in the response that the only recordings they have listened to on the line are those involved in this investigation.
Lawyers for Janiskee has claimed that the city has been recording the line for years and that there is information there that should be made available to defense attorneys.
On Dec. 8, weeks after the crash, the label saying the line was non-recorded was removed at police headquarters.
The city says that any employee of the department understands that any phone or other equipment belonging to the department is subject to monitoring and recording.
The officers, therefore, had no expectation of privacy.
The city says it did not violate any wiretapping laws and that as of 2014, watch commanders were told that the line was not recorded.
The city says that for certain, the non-recorded line was not meant to cover up crimes, misconduct or neglect of duty by Grand Rapids Police officers.
Kuiper, who has since resigned from the prosecutor’s office, is going to trial on charges of reckless driving causing serious injury and moving violation causing injury. He’s also being sued by a vehicle owner he crashed into.
The three officers are not facing criminal charges, based on findings by Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting.