U.S. District Judge Laurie Michelson sentenced a former Detroit Police lieutenant to two and a half years in prison. John F. Kennedy, the man at the center of this scandal, pleaded guilty to taking nearly $15,000 in bribes. This case was part of a crackdown on corruption in cities and their towing operations.
At one time, he headed the Detroit Police Department's Integrity Unit. It is a division of the Internal Affairs Division, which is supposed to help keep officers on the up and up. It was in this capacity that Kennedy and his alleged accomplice Daniel S. Vickers began their scheme. Their scheme was to take the money and other items as bribes in exchange for Kennedy using his influence with city officials to sway them. Justice.gov reveals that this was done multiple times and was quite profitable for the men.
In Detroit, police are supposed to rotate the towing companies that are called to take cars away, whether they are stolen or seized for other reasons. Prosecutors alleged that Kennedy knew he was breaking the rules by having companies that were not on the rotation come in and get the cars but went ahead and did it anyway.
Their scheme seemed to be successful, even as the walls closed in on others who committed similar crimes, Kennedy and Vickers thought they were impervious to being charged with bribery. Until the feds came in and brought them on those exact charges.
Vickers and Kennedy worked together to take bribes from companies in exchange for their referral to call their towing company. Among the company owners, it was believed that the only way to get on a regular rotation with the Detroit Police, they would need to pay up. And the bribes that were given could not be little. In total, Kennedy recieved nearly $15,000 from various companies.
Vickers took in another $3,400 from companies that wanted him to convince his partner to throw his weight around a bit more. They ran their scheme from October 2018 to March 2021, according to The Detroit News.
The Feds became suspicious of the duo as they reviewed records. Once the investigation kicked into high gear, they got a warrant to tap the phones of Vickers. It was during this time that they were able to get the evidence needed to bring charges against the men. Justice.gov says this investigation was part of "Operation Northern Hook." It is the inquiry into corruption in Detroit and the police department. There have been multiple convictions within this umbrella so far, and Feds are still working the case. Vicker was sentenced to 27 months in prison back in February.
United States Attorney Dawn Ison praised the sentence at the time: “Any police officer who chooses the path of corruption should understand that we will not tolerate unethical conduct from our public officials at any level. We commend Detroit Chief of Police James White and the Detroit Police Department for their cooperation assistance in this investigation.”
While this would seem to be the end of the story, it is not.
Investigating and Charging
Kennedy, who is a Rochester Hills native, was arrested in the summer of 2022. In August, he entered a guilty plea. The judge presiding over the case set his sentencing for this month. After the punishment was handed down, he seemed to accept it.
Prosecutors originally asked the judge to sentence Kennedy to four years in prison. His defense attorney argued that while he made a horrible mistake, his record was spotless and that should count for something.
Despite not getting the full sentence that they wanted, Ison told Justice.gov that she is pleased with the results. “Today’s sentence underscores our commitment to ensuring local police agencies embody the utmost commitment to excellence, integrity, and professionalism. Thankfully, today’s result is not emblematic of the character of our law enforcement partners. Nevertheless, this type of immoral conduct will and must be punished."