Former Detroit police lieutenant sentenced for taking bribes in towing scandal

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published May 3, 2023

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ROCHESTER HILLS — A former Detroit police lieutenant was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison April 18 for accepting bribes in connection with corrupted towing permits in Detroit.

United States Attorney Dawn N. Ison said the sentence underscores her “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,” Ison said in a statement. “Nevertheless, this type of immoral conduct will and must be punished.”

John F. Kennedy, 57, of Rochester Hills, previously commanded the Detroit Police Department’s Integrity Unit and was responsible for investigating reports of law violations and professional misconduct by police officers and other city employees.

State officials said Kennedy conspired with fellow Officer Daniel S. Vickers to commit bribery by accepting money and other items in exchange for Kennedy using his influence as a supervisor to persuade other officers to make tow referrals to a towing company. Under the city’s towing rotation, qualifying private towing companies are supposed to be called by the police to tow cars that are seized by the police or reported stolen.

Officials say Kennedy and Vickers also conspired to accept thousands of dollars in cars, car parts, car repairs and new carpeting for Vickers’ home in exchange for providing the towing company that Kennedy was investigating with information about the status of the Integrity Unit’s case.

Between October 2018 and March 2021, state officials said, Kennedy accepted bribes totaling approximately $14,950 from the owner of the towing company and from an undercover federal agent.

Vickers — who officials said accepted over $3,400 in bribe payments from the towing company — pleaded guilty to the bribery conspiracy and was sentenced to 27 months in prison in February.

Vickers and Kennedy were charged as part of the government’s investigation of corruption within the government and the Detroit Police Department relating to the towing industry and other matters. Thus far, six defendants have been charged in the probe, and five of those six defendants have been convicted.

The case was investigated by the Detroit Area Public Corruption Task Force, which is led by the FBI, with assistance from the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Detroit Police Chief James E. White said the former officers’ actions are “unacceptable for anyone who has the privilege to wear the Detroit Police badge.”

“We appreciate U.S. Attorney Ison’s work to bring accountability to those who fail in their sworn duty to serve and protect the public and will continue to collaborate with her office in any investigation of alleged wrongdoing by our officers. Delivering transparent, accountable, policing excellence that Detroiters deserve is a top priority of my administration,” White said in a statement.

James A. Tarasca, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, said police officers take an oath to protect and serve their community.

“John Kennedy is being held accountable for violating that oath and using his official position to benefit himself personally,” Tarasca said in a statement. “We appreciate the partnership and cooperation of Detroit Police Chief James White as the FBI’s Public Corruption Task Force continues to address public corruption in the City of Detroit.”

Kennedy’s attorney could not be reached for comment at press time.