2 Detroit police officers charged with bribery as federal probe into improper towing practices widens

Two Detroit police officers were charged with bribery in connection to an expanding probe into illegal towing practices in the city, which has already ensnared public officials earlier this year.

On Wednesday, a federal indictment was unsealed, listing Lt. John Kennedy, 56, of Rochester Hills, and Officer Daniel Vickers, 54, of Livonia with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. 

Kennedy, who served a commander role within the Detroit Police Department's Integrity Unit, had the job of investigating reports of law violations and police misconduct. According to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, he leveraged his position and influence to persuade other officers to make towing referrals to a specific company, which is in violation of the city's ordinance.

Kennedy conspired with Vickers to commit bribery by accepting money and other items of value in exchange for the lieutenant's influence. Both men have been charged with three counts of bribery, while Kennedy is also charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

According to the city's towing practices, select private companies were called by police to tow cars that had been seized by police or reported stolen. 

"Kennedy and Vickers were aware that by making towing referrals directly to a towing company which was not on the city’s towing rotation, they were violating the city’s rules and an ordinance which prohibit a towing company from receiving towing referrals if they are not on police department’s towing rotation," read a release from the U.S. Attorneys Office.

Both men will appear in federal court Wednesday for arraignment. Detroit Police Chief James White issued a statement stating that the department anticipated the charges to be filed.

"We anticipated this outcome and will continue to cooperate with the FBI in their investigation, which began prior to me leading this department. I am profoundly disappointed with the crimes allegedly committed by these officers.  We will continue to root out corruption and restore trust in the towing process.  The department has already implemented sweeping changes, and there are more to come. Our community deserves honest actors and policing excellence. We are committed to being fully transparent throughout this process," he said.

White also said that he was "profoundly disappointed" with the alleged charges and that the department should "hold ourselves to a high standard".

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This is the second case of charges as part of Operation Northern Hook, an investigation into corruption within the police department. 

"The vast majority of police officers are outstanding public servants and the criminal actions of these defendants should not undermine the public’s trust in law enforcement," said Acting U.S. Attorney Saima S. Mohsin. Police officers who compromise the integrity of the Police Department by prioritizing personal gain over-policing excellence will not be tolerated, and this type of betrayal of the police department and the citizens of Detroit will be thwarted at every turn. Today’s indictment is a step in that direction. We thank the Detroit Police Department’s Chief, James White, for his assistance in this investigation."

A federal probe into misconduct within the Detroit City Council has led to bribery charges against Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, who pled guilty after resigning from the city council. The investigation is also looking at the actions of Councilmembers Janee Ayers and Scott Benson. Both had their homes and officers raided earlier this year.

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Bribes accepted by Vickers went toward new carpeting in his home, the release said. 

Between October 2018 and March 2021, Kennedy allegedly accepted more than $14,000 in cash, cars, and car repairs as a bribe from the owner of the towing company and from an undercover agent. Between February 2018 and June 2018, Vickers accepted $3,400 in bribes.