GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — Greece Police Chief Andrew Forsythe is resigning in the wake of a recent crash that sparked an investigation, according to Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich.
The police chief was placed on administrative leave this weekend following a recent crash while he was operating his police-issued vehicle, which prompted an investigation by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office.
Forsythe suffered a minor contusion and the vehicle was totaled.
Reilich made the announcement during an appearance on Bob Lonsberry’s WHAM 1180 radio show Monday morning. He said he asked the chief for the resignation, who then submitted it back to him. Reilich said he then reached out to the district attorney’s office about the resignation, adding that the investigation into the crash will continue.
“This was not a routine police matter,” Reilich said.
Reilich said the “breakdown of communication” was a contributing factor in him asking for the chief to step down.
“People in a this situation should have known how to handle this differently,” Reilich said. “I’m angry, but I want to ensure the people we will get to the bottom of this.”
The Republican supervisor said he learned more information about the crash Saturday morning after a local journalist reached out to him with more details. He said when he initially talked to Chief Forsythe, he had no reason to believe there was anything more to the story, but decided to put him on leave Sunday after learning more from the district attorney’s office.
Reilich says this “uncharted” situation is something that the town has never had to deal with. The supervisor expressed disappointment and anger, adding that he feels he was misled.
“There’s nobody who backs police more than I do, and I’ve demonstrated that with more than words,” Reilich said.
In a statement Monday, Reilich announced Deputy Chief Jason Helfer will serve as acting Chief of Police. Reilich’s full statement:
“Due to the facts available at this time, I feel it is in the best interest of all of our residents that I ask the Chief to step aside so we can continue serving the great residents of the Town of Greece without distraction. The independent investigation will, of course, continue. As I have been made aware of more and more specifics surrounding the incident, I felt this was the most appropriate step I could take. This weekend, with new facts being shared, I made the decision to place the Chief on administrative leave seeking the guidance of our Labor Attorney as to what steps I could take within the law. Immediately upon his placement on leave, I appointed Deputy Chief Jason Helfer to serve as acting Chief of Police” Supervisor Reilich said in a statement.
“We will move forward together, as we have when we have endured countless difficult times as a community. I have always put the needs of our residents as a priority and this decision was not taken lightly. I have to prioritize what is right for our residents and in this case they need to have faith that those of us charged with serving the best interests of the public will do the right thing. Today, that right thing is asking for the resignation of Chief Forsythe.
Greece police officials said the chief allegedly swerved to avoid a deer and hit a guardrail on Route 390 Thursday at approximately 1:30 a.m. Reilich said he didn’t learn about the crash until later Thursday morning.
Officers with Greece Police arrived at the scene of the accident to investigate. Forsythe was not given any sort of sobriety test and was not checked for drunk driving. Police say if there was any reason to suspect drunk driving, they would’ve proceeded further with a test.
When asked about the events leading up to the incident, Supervisor Reilich said Forsythe may have been travelling back from a function with coworkers.
Forsythe claimed he attempted to make contact with the station, but couldn’t do so because the radio was “damaged or switched frequencies due to impact.”
Officials say he then proceeded to drive to the station, but was not able to make it there from the damage, according to GPD. Despite sustaining a minor contusion, Forsythe did not go to the hospital.
In the statement released Saturday, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said in part:
“The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office was made aware that the Greece Police Chief was involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving his police issued vehicle. Nobody was injured in this accident. At this time, the Monroe County District Attorney’s office of investigators will begin an investigation into this.”
The Greece Police Union has not immediately returned a request for comment.
A statement from Reilich’s opponent for town supervisor, Democratc James Leary Jr., was released Sunday afternoon. The statement can be found online.
Forsythe succeeded Patrick Phelan, who retired from the force last December after leading the department for six years. Forsythe was sworn in on January 1st of this year and Phelan was named as Executive Director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Under Phelan, Forsythe served as the Deputy Chief of Operations and Special Services, second in command of a $17 million organization with roughly 120 employees. Prior to his service in Greece, Forsythe served as the Undersheriff of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office where he was a member from 1991 until 2017.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.