GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Kent County Sheriff’s Department leaders say an officer made a mistake in revealing information that identified an anonymous tipster to a suspect.
The incident happened July 10. Through 911 dispatch, the sheriff’s department got a tip from family members about where to find the suspect, who was wanted on outstanding warrants. Police went to the home and made their arrest.
Patrol cruiser video captured what happened next, Kent County Undersheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said. The suspect had an idea of who might have turned him in. He asked the responding officer if the tipster had a particular area code from outside of West Michigan. The officer confirmed the tipster did. That effectively identified the tipster even though the officer had been told the caller wanted to remain anonymous.
The tipster, who asked not to be identified by 24 Hour News 8, said she was eventually confronted by the suspect when he was released on bond. She said he threatened her.
“We got you. You’re busted,” the tipster said the suspect told her. “The cop told me everything.”
The undersheriff said the officer involved made a mistake.
“We investigated it. We reviewed the video. We saw the point where the exchange of information happened and it absolutely seemed very incidental,” LaJoye-Young told 24 Hour News 8. “It was the suspect’s information that the officer just essentially said ‘yes.'”
The tipster said she isn’t afraid for her safety but was concerned by what happened and the impact it could have had if circumstances were different.
“You don’t know the temperament of the person in the back seat,” the tipster said.
LaJoye-Young said the officer involved was apologetic and realized his error. She said he was counseled by his superiors but did not face disciplinary sanctions.
“They’re human beings. They leave out of here (the sheriff’s station) every day with the best intent to do the best thing that they can to serve the public,” LaJoye-Young said. “Sometimes mistakes happen.”
“I absolutely understand mistakes happen,” the tipster said. “But I think that law enforcement is held at a higher level.”
The undersheriff said that people with important anonymity concerns should reach out to Silent Observer, which won’t give police a tipster’s information. In Kent County, Silent Observer can be reached at 616.774.2345.