GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County prosecutor has determined three Grand Rapids police officers will not be charged with a crime for their handling of an alcohol-related crash involving an ex-prosecutor.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said Wednesday during a news conference that the three officers were not in violation of the law. Former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Joshua Kuiper will be charged with reckless driving causing serious injury and moving violation causing serious injury. He could serve more than five years for the charges if found guilty.
Kuiper was booked Thursday and released the same day, according to Kent County jail records.WATCH: Special prosecutor discusses case
“The officers’ actions that night call into question their fitness to continue as police, but they were not in violation of the law,” Getting said.
Getting explained that the officers were being investigated for a possible willful neglect of duty charge, which is a misdemeanor. The charge looks at what legal duty police had for their investigation and whether or not there was a willful neglect by them to perform a duty required by the law.
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 Kuiper was driven to a nearby home.
Some may ask, how is this not willful neglect of duty? Getting says it’s not because law gives officers discretion.
“There is no law that says if you pull someone over you must give them a breathalyzer,” Kuiper said.
Just like there is no law that says officers must make an arrest for every violation of the law that they observe.
For example, being pulled over for speeding. It’s up to the officer’s discretion to write you a ticket or let you go with a verbal warning.
“Officers have discretion in the enforcement of the law and we encourage them to use that discretion so that people are being treated fairly,” said Getting.
Grand Rapids Police Department Chief David Rahinsky and City Manager Greg Sundstrom decided on Tuesday to terminate Sgt. Thomas Warwick, Lt. Matthew Janiskee and Officer Adam Ickes.
The three officers were suspended without pay in the wake of the Nov. 19 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.
Rahinsky’s recommendation is not the final say. Under the city charter, the officers are entitled to a hearing to appeal the termination. 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.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said Kuiper hasn’t been in the office since he submitted his resignation letter.
“We have complete confidence that the case will be handled in a professional and fair manner and a just disposition reached,” said Becker in a statement.