LONSBERRY: The Morabito Report is Crap

  I should calm down before I write this.

               I should let the anger pass.

               I should think on it for a day or two.

               But shit doesn’t get better with age. And the Morabito Report is shit.

               And so is the conduct it describes and the police chief it investigated.

               That’s Drew Forsythe. He’s done more for the defund-the-police movement than a summer’s worth of BLM protests.

               It was back in October that he, after hitting the bar pretty hard at a State Police fundraiser, drove home in a tricked-out town SUV. On the way, a guardrail jumped out in front of him and he tore off a wheel assembly and crumpled a hell of a lot of prime American sheet metal.

               And kept on driving.

               Stopping is for punks.

               For most of five miles he put on a fireworks display, shooting sparks and gouging pavement, swerving into oncoming traffic, apparently trying to get to his house and its six-car garage.

               This is the police chief. The Republican Party’s last candidate for sheriff. A longtime undersheriff and darling of the Thin Blue Line set. They pushed out an undersheriff to get him that job and they pushed out a chief to get him this job and damned if that doesn’t make a guy feel a little entitled.

               After the beast finally died and he slurred something to dispatch, the second pile of shit showed up.

               The officers and commanders of the Greece Police Department, the agency over which Drew Forsythe presided. Damn, that’s a hard-luck crew. I’ve been covering them for more than 30 years – privileged to MC their annual banquet more than once – but that department has been snake bit since before I came along, and things don’t ever seem to change for long. There’s always some self-important blowhard bastard not quite tall enough integrity wise to go on the big-boy rides.

               And a fish rots from the head.

               And as the pickled herring stood next to his crumpled chief-mobile, the small fry sold out their badges and their oaths.

               That’s how I read it.

               Because if Drew Forsythe had been a 20-year-old black guy his ass would have been up against the car and he would have been moments away from demonstrating his ability to walk toe-to-toe on a white line while counting backward from 100 and touching his nose.

               But as it was, as everything about the incident shouted DWI, the people who lied to the Morabito investigation would have us believe that not a one of them, based on their experience and training, even suspected that there was anything amiss about A POLICE CHIEF WITH SLURRED SPEECH WHO HAD JUST DRIVEN HIS THREE-WHEEL CAR FIVE MILES AFTER A ONE-VEHICLE WRECK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT WHILE COMING HOME FROM A TROOPER BOOZER DOWNTOWN.

               Nope, nothing suspicious about that whatsoever.

               Nor the fact that instead of calling the ambulance, one officer commanded another to tend to Forsythe’s bleeding head wound.

               Which means that either we can disband the Greece Volunteer Ambulance because it is unnecessary, or that somebody knew paramedics tend to write down pesky things like “patient smelled of alcohol.”

               But getting back to the shit.

               Every officer who set foot on that scene and failed in his or her duty to act needs to be a former officer.

               It was integrity-test day, and the platoon failed.

               And the failure of the Morabito Report to call for the cashiering of such officers is disgusting. As it was, they will have a letter put in their file, and if they ever let another drunk police chief get away with something like this, well, there will be hell to pay.

               For half a second, stop and think about what sort of crap operation Drew Forsythe must have been running that this sort of disgraceful and dishonorable conduct could take place. How much dumbing down of integrity and duty did it take to turn this many random cops into accomplices? What must the culture of that police department have been that nobody had the balls to stand up and act with honor?

               And what does this report do to change any of that?

               You had an unspoken conspiracy covering for the unlawful, dangerous and dishonest conduct of a police chief, and nobody gets fired for that. What’s more, it seems the report saves its most specific condemnation for the officer who blew the cover off the cover up.

               Calling it a “rogue investigation” and citing all sorts of procedures and policies, the Morabito Report castigates one officer for taking a picture of the wrecked SUV, and for photographing the dishonest police report the small fry turned in.


               Then the report goes on to track how it claims news of the incident became public.

               And speaking of public, it’s interesting that in the report of this investigation into the misconduct of public officials, the only people whose names are used – other than Drew Forsythe – are all private citizens – two retired police officers and two journalists.

               Seriously. There is an entire report about crooked cops, and all the cops are referred to as XXX. Sure, one is Sergeant XXX and another one is Deputy Chief XXX, but in a scrum of 10 investigated officers, all are referred to simply as XXX. Not Officer 1 and Officer 2, or any other designation that would allow them to be individually discernible, but XXX. That makes it impossible to follow the story, and to sort out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

               Nope, the only names used were of people you got the feeling the report was trying to embarrass – even when the report had its facts completely wrong.

               Like the paragraph about former chief Pat Phelan and Channel 10 reporter Jennifer Lewke.

               In the initial version, the Morabito Report said – using their full names – that Phelan told Lewke to come to a precinct impound lot to photograph the wrecked vehicle. He also supposedly told her about the wreck. The report also said that Lewke told a Greece town employee that Phelan had told her about the wreck. The report also said that Lewke was trespassing on restricted police property.

               That’s all troublesome.

               First of all, Pat Phelan is president of the New York State police chiefs’ association. Police chiefs keep secrets. If it gets out that Phelan is leaking to reporters, he loses the trust of the chiefs for whom he works, and his gig is up.

               Second of all, Jennifer Lewke is Rochester’s best television reporter. That’s partially because she has contacts who trust her to keep their identities secret if they pass information to her. In the report, they claimed that Lewke gave up a source – Pat Phelan – at the drop of a hat, making it very unlikely anybody would ever trust her again.

               Also, the Morabito Report claims Lewke was trespassing. Reporters can’t do that. They have to obey the law, just like anybody else.

               Well, just like anybody else who isn’t Drew Forsythe.

               And all of that is bad.

               And false.

               It’s not true. It didn’t happen. Pat Phelan didn’t tell Jennifer Lewke anything. Jennifer Lewke didn’t tell the town employee anything. Neither did she trespass in the restricted area. In fact, she wasn’t even there. Period. She didn’t go there. It’s all bull crap.

               But, coincidentally, it damages a former chief who apparently the town of Greece is prickly toward, and it kneecapped the only TV reporter in town anymore who truly scares the bigwigs.

               And if Jennifer Lewke’s boss hadn’t sent in the corporate law department, that lie would have stood. But, after getting a big-city talking to, in the dark of the night, without any sort of announcement, the town of Greece swapped out that paragraph. In its place was a completely different narrative, in which some TV cameraman and a town employee or something have some sort of conversation. There’s no Jennifer Lewke involved, but now Pat Phelan is supposed to have told somebody else who told this photographer and the photographer announced that to the town employee. Another implausible story.

               Which begs the question: If the Morabito Report was completely wrong about Lewke and Phelan, how can anybody trust it to be right about anything else?

               And how is it that an investigation into police misconduct morphed into a witch hunt for a whistleblower and a track down of private citizens allegedly talking to journalists?

               And, as a tangent, how did all this professional investigating not track down the means by which I know I and at least one other reporter got the story and the picture?

               I’m not an official police investigator, but this thing, to me, looks like a half-assed combo of a witch hunt and a cover up. The look-the-other-way crew – all those officers named XXX – gets a slap on the wrist, the guy who broke open the cover up gets reamed royal, and law-abiding citizens and reporters get defamed, falsely.

               All in a fancy write up that reads like the first-year law school effort of a solid C student.

               Which is why it’s got me so pissed off.

               Which is why I think the public took a screw job on this.

               Which is why I think the Morabito Report is shit.

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