GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — A new report into the Greece Police Department’s handling of the investigation into its former chief’s crash sheds light into how responding officers acted the night of the incident.
The internal investigation report concluded that a field sobriety test should have been conducted on the chief by responding officers and that a number of policies were violated on the night of the crash.
Former Chief Drew Forsythe resigned in October days after he crashed a town-issued vehicle into a guardrail on 390. Forsythe suffered a minor contusion and the vehicle was totaled. He pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor driving while ability impaired and leaving the scene of a property damage accident.
Seven of the ten Greece police officers who were under investigation for their alleged roles into the investigation of the former chief’s crash are being recommended for disciplinary action or demotion.
The report — compiled by retired Rochester Police Deputy Chief of Operations Joe Morabito who was tasked to oversee the internal investigation — details the involvement of the responding officers after Forsythe crashed the vehicle. The report (full document below) redacts the names of the officers involved. Three of the officers investigated were exonerated in the report.
In the report, Morabito concluded a number of Greece Police Department policies were violated, adding that measures in the Code of Ethics, Oath of Office, and vehicle and traffic laws were not followed.
Greece police officials originally reported Forsythe allegedly swerved to avoid a deer and hit a guardrail on Route 390 at approximately 1:30 a.m. on October 21. Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich said he didn’t learn about the crash until later that 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, authorities said. They added that if there was any reason to suspect drunk driving, they would’ve proceeded further with a test.
“I am especially concerned since learning that former Chief Forsythe was not administered a breathalyzer or a field sobriety test that would have been routinely performed on civilians,” Relich said last month. “Simply put, I am outraged.”
Morabito said the responding officers should have conducted a field sobriety test, saying in the report:
“Before former Chief Forsythe was taken home, the responding sworn members should have recognized the significance of what was occurring, as there was minimally sufficient reasonable suspicious to conduct field sobriety testing and use the alco-sensor to detect alcohol.”
Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley announced on November 8 that Forsythe was facing criminal charges, including misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a property damage accident, a traffic violation.
“Mr. Forsythe did not stay at the crash, nor did he report the crash as soon as physically able,” Doorley said last month. “He continued to drive.”
Doorley said there was substantial evidence that indicates intoxication, including video footage of Forsythe consuming six alcoholic drinks before getting behind the wheel that evening, video evidence of him walking to his vehicle in a parking garage, audio recording of his voice after the crash, and the crash itself.
“On the evening of October 20, 2021, Mr. Forsythe attended the Signal 30 dinner to benefit families of fallen New York State Police officers,” Doorley said. “At approximately 5:50 p.m. he arrived at the Hyatt Hotel in his town-owned Chevrolet Tahoe and parked in the South Avenue parking garage. At approximately 10:12 p.m. he entered the bar area of the Hyatt and remained inside that bar area until approximately 12:36 a.m. During that two hour and 15 minute period, he consumed approximately six alcoholic beverages. We don’t know what he drank from the time he arrived at the event leading up to 10:12 p.m.”
Greece police officials initially said Forsythe attempted to drive to the police station after the crash, but couldn’t make it there due to damage to the vehicle — damage that Doorley said included only one working wheel attached to the vehicle, and sparks flying from behind it as he attempted to keep driving.
“The vehicle was driven with only three wheels, and two of the three were shredded, and the former chief did not sound good on the radio,” the report reads.
Morabito wrote that certain Greece police members failed to disclose “pertinent information” at the scene that was “critical to the assessment of reasonable suspicion.” He added that officers on the scene failed to ask the Forsythe any questions about where he was before the crash, or if he had been drinking.
Morabito said the highest-ranking officer failed to provide officers with clear directions, adding that “responding officers were put in an awkward position.” The report said the officers were instructed to “Do what they saw fit,” or “do whatever you have to do.” without further explanation.
Morabito said the department should have utilized another law enforcement agency as the investigative unit.
“One supervisor conducted a rogue investigation,” Morabito wrote. “Taking GPD information from systems without authorization, and taking photos and evidence of an MVA (subsequently a criminal MVA) and distributed information related to the MVA to a civilian without the permission of the GPD (which is a violation of law and policy).”
Among the recommended penalties, Morabito concluded that one officer should be demoted, and others should face unpaid suspensions up to 30 days. The seven officers can accept the recommended discipline or face a disciplinary hearing.
The report also lists out 12 action items the department should adopt in the wake of this incident and subsequent investigation, including, but not limited to:
- Roll call training on whistleblower policy and reporting procedures
- Adjust policy so that outside law enforcement agencies can investigate crashes involving a Greece Police Department member, beyond a simple accident
- Modify officer complaints, accidents, and reporting instructions
- Add an officer ethics policy to include more areas of concern than financial areas
- Improve the department’s media response protocols
Former RPD Chief Cedric Alexander reacted to the findings with News 8. While he feels Forsythe did finally ‘own up’ to his actions, pleading guilty –he realizes trust will have to be re-built in the community.
“There was a greater responsibility at the night at that scene, in which others should have taken responsibility as well. But, we’re going to allow this to be a ‘learning and teaching moment’. It appears there may be some discipline for those involved who were involved, but we also have to move past that, make it a teaching moment, reinforce the fact that to maintain our integrity and our legitimacy out here with the community, we always have to make sure we’re doing things correctly and above board to the best of our abilities,” he said.
Alexander added, “I encourage them there in Greece…you’re a good police department. Keep your heads up high, stay safe, keep doing your job and remember every day that we go out there and every call we go on, we’re building trust.”
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.