GRPD officers who handled prosecutor’s crash terminated

Grand Rapids
grpd-suspended-officers 013017_278875

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids police chief and city manager have decided to terminate all three officers under investigation for how they handled an alcohol-related crash involving an ex-prosecutor.

Grand Rapids Police Department Chief David Rahinsky agrees Sgt. Thomas Warwick, Lt. Matthew Janiskee and Officer Adam Ickes have a record of good work with the Grand Rapids Police Department, but he says their actions are fireable offenses.

“These are individuals that who contributed to this department, contributed to this community and we respect that, but the nature of law enforcement is when you make a mistake there’s consequences and in this instance they’re significant,” Rahinsky said. “I think it really goes to the nature of law enforcement that unlike most professions, we don’t have the ability to make mistakes that goes against our core principals.”

The full details of what actions resulted in the termination are still unknown. The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office — which is handling the case to avoid any conflicts of interest — says it will release its findings regarding any criminal wrongdoing on Wednesday.

The GRPD announced the three officers were suspended without pay on Jan. 27, about two months after the crash on Union Avenue SE involving then-assistant prosecutor Joshua Kuiper. Car owner Daniel Empson was injured in the wrong-way head-on crash and is now suing Kuiper, who has since resigned from the prosecutor’s office.

The traffic crash report written by Ickes shows that alcohol was a factor in the crash. But the report states Kuiper was able to “perform well on the alphabet and hand dexterity.”

However, body camera footage shows Kuiper slurring his words following the crash.

Kuiper was not given a breathalyzer test. Instead, he received a ticket for driving the wrong way down a one-way street and Warwick drove Kuiper to a nearby home.

Janiskee was the watch commander that night. His wife works for the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, but Prosecutor Chris Becker said she played no role in what happened that night.

Rahinsky’s recommendation is not the final say. Under the city charter, the officers are entitled to a hearing to appeal the termination. City Manager Greg Sundstrom says it is rare for officers to take advantage of that option.

If they do, a hearing administrator (usually the deputy city manager) makes a recommendation after the proceedings. That recommendation is given to the city manager, who makes the final decision to either uphold the previous decision to terminate the employee or reverse it.

The officers also have the right to file a grievance if they believe their termination is in violation of their contract. If the city disputes the grievance, the matter can go before a state arbitrator, who will make a binding decision.

“It’s never a happy day” when a city employee is terminated, Sundstrom said. “Sometimes I have to make sure we are all doing our best.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links