More Sketchy ECSO Facts

In my last post, the procedure of how the “sensitive” or “exceptional” investigations conducted by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office were handled was explained by LT. Steve Cappas. Zach Ward pointed out how a report with critical evidence that he handled was inexplicably missing from the case file while it was replaced by another report done a year later by a different person. This illustrates tampering and/or destruction of evidence. Steve Cappas tried hard to cover up and explain away inaccuracies told by Sheriff Morgan in his press conference. It was obvious that evidence that should have been handled professionally and securely, was not and many people were aware and had access to sensitive information that could be manipulated for self-preservation by many. I am not saying it WAS manipulated but just the fact that the opportunity and access facilitated the possibility of multiple hands altering evidence to preserve their livelihoods, reputations, and marriages, exists. It would just take one desperate person feeling backed into a corner, with the ability to distort the facts of the case via the digital evidence. While I am not saying it did happen for a fact, often, good people make bad decisions if the opportunity presents itself. This was a politically charged case that could have led to career ending implications, possible jail time repercussions and even personal life destruction. And the handling of evidence was so sloppy, that we cannot know for a fact it wasn’t tainted. That is the reason for police procedures is to minimize opportunities and preserve chain of custody. That did not exist in this case.  My question is how many other cases happened like that over the tenure of Sheriff Morgan?

 In trying to understand if it is possible other cases, big or small, may have been handled just as unprofessionally, we must look at the people in charge of such investigations. Today, I want to continue the discussion with a look at the most recent head of Internal Affairs investigations, Frank Forte. Under his watch, many deputies’ careers have passed through his hands.  Just to give some context and clarification, during Zarzaur’s deposition with Eric Haines, done last week, it came out there is no internal procedure or process of handling or even initiating IA investigations. IA has been used as a tool for the administration to conduct witch hunts against deputies they consider, unworthy of the badge. Any reasoning works and depending on how vehemently Eric wants people gone, it can be a nonsensical and even unlawful process. An example is Tama Barber’s writ of Mandamus, where Morgan decided there would be no compliance hearing that is available to deputies via Florida statute. Morgan doesn’t have the authority to deny that, yet he did. This is standard operating procedure.

None these mishandlings of IA investigations can go on, if a professional is at the head of this department, assuring deputies’ rights aren’t violated as well as procedure is followed to protect the ECSO from liability in wrongful termination suits. Forte being the head of this particular department, is very interesting because there is documentation showing Frank Forte perjured himself.

Because my colleague, Dr. James Scaminaci III delivers the facts as elegantly as I would be able to, I differ to his article on CJ’s Street Report from December 14, 2016:

The basic facts are these.  Sergeant Nix was working a side job in Pensacola Beach.  He gave permission to three vehicles to park in a “Loading Zone” area.  Sergeant Nix knew that there was no Florida statute prohibiting parking in such a zone (there is now).  Sergeant Nix advised Deputy Cripe that he had given the car owners permission to park there and that it was legal.  Deputy Cripe complained to Lt. Frank Forte who instructed Deputy Cripe to write the tickets.  Once Nix left his side job, Cripe wrote two tickets on Saturday and one ticket on Monday.  The three tickets involved two car owners.

Sergeant Nix was subpoenaed to appear as a defense witness, as was Deputy Cripe as a for the prosecution.  Lt. Forte attended as an observer.

After Nix’s testimony had concluded, Lt. Forte told Col Hardy that Sergeant Nix had violated ECSO guidelines in his testimony.  In the June 28, 2016, memo from Col Hardy to Chief Deputy Haines, Hardy wrote:  “Following the hearings, I was contacted by Lt. Forte and he informed me that it was his belief that the testimony given by Sgt. Nix against the Sheriff’s Office during the hearings rose to the level of Unbecoming Conduct in violation of ECSO policy.”

In the very same memo from Hardy to Haines, Col Hardy informed the Chief Deputy that he had checked to see if there were any evidence that could contradict or corroborate Lt Forte’s belief.  There was no such evidence.  Thus, the second Internal Affairs investigation began.

It is important to note that this second Internal Affairs investigation proceeded once Hardy and Haines were assured there was no evidence that could contradict Forte’s statement.  It would be an officer’s word against a sergeant’s word, backed up by a deputy, Cripe who was in the courtroom.

Unbeknownst to Haines, Hardy, Forte, and Cripe, Sergeant Nix, already in the gun sights of the ECSO due to the ongoing first Internal Affairs investigation seeking to charge him with felony grand theft, paid for a court reporter to record the proceedings of the traffic court.

Unfortunately, I do not have an electronic copy of the second Internal Affairs documentation.  However, I do have hard copy of Lt. Forte’s sworn recorded statement regarding IA # I2016-012 dated July 22, 2016.

On page 9 of his sworn to be true testimony, Lt Forte told ECSO investigators, “…and the exact words, I can’t remember but I can tell you that part of it was, I was assigned to that beach for a long time and I’m aware that deputies have a habit of writing illegal tickets there.  And I couldn’t believe that he made that statement in court.  First of all, it’s not a true statement.  But to make that statement is bad enough….Our deputies sitting there shaking their heads.  Got their heads down shaking their heads like they can’t believe those words just came out of Nix’s mouth.”

On page 10, Lt. Forte’s sworn to be true recorded testimony reads:  “POLLOCK: And is this opinion of these illegal tickets or did he just kind of make some blanket statement?  FORTE: Nix blurted the statement I gave you.  Uhm.  He was never asked, what is your opinion or anything of that nature.  I didn’t hear that.  What I heard was Philip Nix explaining how he gave them permission and then he continues on to say something to the effect of, I’m very familiar with that red curb because uh there’s been numerous deputies that have written tickets on that, uh illegal parking tickets on that red curb.  Uhm, and when he made that statement uhm I can assure you no one asked him his opinion or asked him any of that.  He, that was, that was solely on him.”

Pretty damning stuff.  Except not one word of what Lt. Forte swore to be true under oath under the penalty of perjury was true.  He lied through his teeth believing there was no way his perjured testimony could be challenged by Sergeant Nix.

According to the transcript of the traffic court hearing, here is exactly what was said in the exchange between Mr. Chris Rabby, the lawyer for the car owners, and Sergeant Nix, witness for the defense:

“Question: So the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department has been illegally ticketing people for years for parking in front of The Dock?”
“Answer [NIX]:  “I don’t–if there is no statute for it, I don’t know what they are being ticketed for.”
Mr. Rabby:  “I don’t have any further questions of this witness.”

Maybe in an alternate universe there is a Sergeant Nix transforming a question from a lawyer into his own statement, but in that traffic hearing on that day, Sergeant Nix answered in the negative.  Lt. Forte’s sworn to be true testimony is false.  He perjured himself.  Surely there is some violation of ECSO policy for bringing a false accusation against a fellow law enforcement officer, providing false testimony, and wasting the ECSO’s resources on a fake crime.

Was Lt. Forte investigated or otherwise disciplined for making a false accusation, providing false testimony, and wasting ECSO resources?  In the voice of an insurance company model, “No.”

Here, outsiders can see clearly two standards of justice.  If you are a favorite of the ruling class–Morgan and Haines and Hardy–you can lie under oath, as long as your lies are in the service of the ruling class.  In that case, you are golden.  But, if you stand up for ordinary residents being falsely accused by the ECSO of parking their cars in a prohibited loading zone, well, you better have a lawyer and a court reporter on your side.  But what is legal and what is true are of no concern to Morgan and Haines.  What counts for them is blind obedience–the law and truth be damned.

Any resident should be able to understand this case and the jeopardy that puts you in.  If Sheriff Morgan wants you to be fined and/or prosecuted, there are deputies willing to perjure themselves to keep their jobs.  And Morgan will protect them.  We know that because Sergeant Nix advised Sheriff Morgan as to the lies told and Morgan did absolutely nothing

So we have established we have a lieutenant over Special Victims or Investigations that doesn’t secure evidence, now the Lieutenant over Internal Affairs who has perjured himself and been apparently rewarded for doing so by subsequent promotion to his current position after the perjury was made clear to admin. Why should we expect any investigation to be handled correctly when we cannot expect proper handling of big cases, like the Manning sex case nor the civil case involving parking tickets illegally issued?

Anyone wanting to read the entire, lengthy statement of Frank Forte, the court transcript from the civil traffic court case or the result of the IA against Forte for perjury which exonerated him can click links above.

A Deputy’s View: The Liar Heading “Internal Investigations”

On 7-22-2016, Lt. Frank Forte gave a statement to the Internal Affairs division of the Escambia County Sheriffs Office (ECSO). His statement was about a complaint he filed concerning court testimony of another officer. The officer, Sgt. Philip Nix, was a witness to a parking citation that had been issued on Pensacola Beach. Dep. David Cripe wrote a citation that he had been ordered not to issue. Sgt. Nix had instructed Dep. Cripe that a vehicle parked on the curb had asked permission and he was aware of the parked vehicles. Sgt. Nix also was aware that an ongoing issue about the parking area had not been resolved. The issue was about the parking area having legal marking to make a citation legal if issued.

Lt. Forte had been informed of the issue concerning parking by Dep. Cripe. This occurred on a Saturday morning, in January, on Pensacola Beach. The temperature was near freezing and the day not exactly a busy summer day. Parking was not creating any hardship for any person at the beach. Sgt. Nix had stated that it was not a situation that required any need for concern. The issue of parking was not a major concern and the incident was not one that could be considered urgent. Now, consider that Lt. Forte is involved. Situation becomes a major issue because in true fashion Lt. Forte must be center of attention. He could never miss an opportunity to flex his muscles and prove he is in charge.

Sgt. Nix left the beach from the duty assignment he was working. Shortly after Sgt. Nix left Dep Cripe rushed to the parked vehicles and issued citations. This action by Dep. Cripe is completed with the blessing of Lt. Forte. Later, Lt. Forte is quoted as saying “I don’t give a shit what he ordered” referring to Sgt. Nix instructing Dep. Cripe to not issue citations. Lt. Forte gave no consideration to the people that had been informed by a law enforcement officer to park in a location that he was now ordering citations to be issued. His ego controlled a decision to be made that cause innocent people to be caught up in a temper tantrum he was having against Sgt. Nix. Lt. Forte was more concerned about proving Sgt. Nix was not going to control “his Beach” and this point would be made by citing unsuspecting individuals with a ticket costing around $130.00. Lt. Forte didn’t even think about the fact Sgt. Nix wouldn’t be impacted by the decision. It would only impact the individual Sgt. Nix didn’t know receiving a ticket. Lt. Forte was caught up in proving he was in charge and flexing his muscle. This mentality is why he has been forced to bribe officers to even work for him, by buying sunglasses, if they transfer to him. The same reason he failed to motivate his shifts to the point he offered cash rewards for completing expected job requirements to officers that met a defined goal. He failed to even consider he was violating the law with providing gifts for doing a job.

Getting back to the citations on the beach, recipients of the tickets contested them. Sgt. Nix was subpoenaed to court to testify about the facts of the case. Sgt. Nix appeared in court as required. The testimony he gave was brief and to the point when asked questions concerning the citations and his involvement. Lt. Forte was in the courtroom when Sgt. Nix gave testimony. Lt. Forte falsely report back to ECSO administration that the testimony given by Sgt. Nix was considered “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer”. Lt. Forte explained that Lt. Nix made statements that were derogatory toward the ECSO and stated Sgt. Nix made critical remarks about the agency that were shocking.

The traffic hearing occurred on 6-10-2016. After confirming the traffic court had not been recorded by any type of court reporter, an internal investigation was ordered to be completed on Sgt. Nix. The investigation was based on the complaint made by Lt. Forte. At that point, the only evidence would have been the statements given by those that witnessed the court hearing. The case would relied on the memory and recall of those that were in the court room on the day of the hearing. Lt. Forte was one of the individuals that provided a statement concerning the conduct in the hearing that Sgt. Nix gave testimony. It would be safe to assume that Sgt. Nix didn’t have much of a chance with this investigation. Lt. Forte had previously given an opinion of what he believed had occurred. He was the person actually responsible for the complaint.

On 7-22-2016, Lt. Forte gave a statement concerning the testimony of Sgt. Nix. The statement was under oath. He was asked if he had knowledge of the incident. Lt. Forte responded with a response that took 5 transcribed pages to document. Lt. Forte included statements that he heard Sgt. Nix say the ECSO wrote illegal tickets routinely and have for years. He stated that Sgt. Nix was blurting out statements with being asked questions. He continued with testimony that made Sgt. Nix appear out of control and obviously not acting in a professional manner. Lt. Fortes statement described an officer that needed to be not only disciplined but for the discipline to be harsh up to even termination. This statement was the best evidence because there was not a court transcript. The issue came down to Lt. Fortes word against Sgt. Nix’s word.

On 8-31-2016, Sgt. Nix was interviewed by internal affairs investigators regarding the court appearance. Sgt. Nix reviewed the evidence and statements that had been given to this point. Sgt. Nix noticed that Lt. Forte was a confirmed liar and had no intent on being truthful. When compared to actual events, the statement of Lt. Forte could not be recognized as the same hearing that Sgt. Nix had appeared at causing this investigation. Lt. Forte made statements that were absolutely false and had no truth to them. Lt. Forte lied consistently through the entire statement concerning the conduct of Sgt. Nix. Lt. Forte had the belief he could say whatever he wanted to say because he knew the ECSO had not been able to receive a transcript of the actual hearing. It was not available from the clerk’s office.

Sgt. Nix had anticipated the possibility that there could be an issue with Lt. Forte and the court appearance concerning the parking tickets. Sgt. Nix was able to provide an official transcript of the court hearing. The court hearing had been documented by a court reporter at the expense of Sgt. Nix. Knowing Lt. Forte had the reputation of being a liar and avoiding truthful statements when it did not benefit his cause he hired a court reporter. Sgt. Nix was able to prove that Lt. Forte was the liar that he had always been believed Lt. Forte to be. It was in black and white. Lt. Forte gave a statement that was a complete lie and there was an official transcript that proved Lt. Forte had lied while under oath.

Sgt. Nix having a copy of a court transcript prompted an investigation against Lt. Forte for being untruthful. In true ECSO fashion Lt. Forte was exonerated because he said he didn’t have a chance to review the transcript. Had Sgt. Nix not paid for a court reporter there would not have been a transcript. I guess Lt. Forte can only be expected to tell the truth if he has an opportunity to review what can be used against him if he decides to be a liar. Most law enforcement issues that require a statement do not have transcript’s available to rely on when giving testimony from memory of an incident. This mentality would suggest unless Lt. Forte has little credibility when being judged on honesty. Lt. Forte said his statement would have not been the same if he could have had a chance to read the court transcript before his statement under oath. What that actually means is he would have been truthful if he would have known he would get caught in a lie. It is possible there are people that have suffered from his testimony in the past. If he would lie about another officer, because of a personal vendetta, it is not a stretch to think he would lie to look like a competent cop.

Now, the ECSO has made the decision to place Lt. Forte as Officer in Charge of Internal Affairs. Let that sink in for a minute. A known and proven liar placed in a position to investigate officers that have had complaints on them. He knows that if you are in favorable position with the administration an investigation of a complaint will be directed toward being covered up. He knows because he was the benefactor of such an investigation. If there is not a case against an officer, he can control information to appear the officer is at fault. The most tragic part of this is the officers that are continually subjected to the incompetent leadership of this administration. There is not a scenario that one could imagine that would make Lt. Forte a good choice for a position that should require honesty and integrity. There should not be a surprise here because the administration has proven there is not a requirement to have honesty or integrity. In fact, you don’t even need ability. All you need is the desire to carry water for the powers that be regardless of how deplorable they may be.

 

Thoughts on the Recent Promotions from Inside the ECSO

Recently promotions were made at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Congratulations to one that deserved the promotion. Sgt. Tom Kelly was promoted and now Is Lt. Kelly. This IS an actual promotion that should have happen and Lt. Kelly can perform at a level expected by the officers under his command. He will be an example of leadership and professionalism. Many officers will have a chance to observe real supervision, that has become folk lore at the ECSO, for the first time in their career.                    ‘

Now, let’s talk about another– Lt. Frank Forte was promoted to 1st Lt Forte. While Frank will brag as if he had the winning numbers to the Mega PowerBall about this promotion but it is truly lackluster when compared to the other promotions. In fact, anybody should be insulted if they are compared to Forte. He has performed every cut throat task with diligence second to none, except maybe Morgan.  He was passed over for promotion when those promoted had half the years of experience as he does and they were promoted to much higher positions. Because Frank lacks morals and integrity, he was promoted to a position that will allow him to be used. He will carry water for Haines and allow plausible deniability when Haines deploys one of his search and destroy missions. Add the fact that Frank is a documented liar and Haines has the perfect minion for his devious duty assignments. Frank is incompetent, dishonest, and vindictive. All the boxes are checked for what Haines expects from a person running Internal Affairs Investigations.

It could be also that Frank needed to be removed from any position that allowed further destruction of an already weak morale level of current employees. Frank has also been called out for offering rewards for law enforcement activity when assigned to a shift. His failed leadership style reduced him to paying, presumably from his own pocket, and what officers are already hired to do. A law enforcement leader should know that is improper and that process should alert those with decision making authority to look for a problem. A  quick glance would reveal Frank had to bribe officers with gifts to request an assignment to his command and he paid officers extra to simply do their job. This conduct does not have any characteristic of what one would consider a valuable leadership tool.

Now, to another individual that was promoted—Lt. Ken Simmons. He was elevated to the rank of captain. It appears he has begun to reap the rewards of a relative (Chip Simmons -Sheriff candidate and current Chief Deputy) being in high places. His career has been less than notable to this point. He has few qualities that separate him from the pack and a reputation that is less than honorable. No special training, education or accomplishment that would qualify him for advancement ahead of others except for having a brother as Chief Deputy. The obvious question would be if this is a nepotism violation. I believe the law concerning nepotism is clear and this will be a promotion that is reversed in time. Haines would know this but agreed to not fight it so he could avoid being blamed at a future time.

Moving along there are 3 sergeant position that were elevated to captain or above and a  deputy position elevated to captain. One would pause to wonder how you promote sergeants all of whom were inadequate for a lieutenant’s position to a staff position. That is a kick to the teeth of the good officers that earned their position on the list for lieutenants. I assume the message to the ones that took the time to study for a test and dedicate the time to do well is, don’t waste your time and become a member of staff. Apparently, staff is seeking known failures and skipping the process to discover the individuals promoted are failures. This idea of leadership is the reason the ECSO has evolved into an agency that is ineffective and embarrassing to the citizens it serves.

There will be more to report soon. The monster that is known as David Morgan will continue to allow the destruction of the ECSO by the hands of Haines. He will continue to claim victory when placing last and fail to build leaders tasked with protecting our county. If Chip continues to ignore these failures and associate himself with this failed administration, as he has consistently done since taking his oath, he will prove he is not the person we should support for our next law enforcement leader. Some may even believe he is just a continuation of Morgan. The rumors of infidelity could be true and Haines has the relevant information to control Chip. There are few facts to support Chip being worthy of election at this point. There are many facts to cause one to believe he is only an extension of the failed Morgan administration. A brother is promoted, failed first line supervisors brought into the administration, failure to be a leader when deputies’ rightful raises were being extorted, rumors of infidelity being leveraged against Chip, and Chip is silent all the way through it all. That adds up to incompetence or corruption. Chip should either speak up or step away from Morgan. Staying the course he is on, only indicates he is the wrong person for the job.

A Real “Ask the Sheriff” Follow Up

Although it has already been documented by James Scaminaci’s blog, CJ’s Street Report, that Frank Forte perjured himself, I wanted to post his IA exoneration details.  Sgt. Nix provided me with the document, as he already had it.

But before that, I must address the elephants in the room.  Ms. Rodgers, Mr. Haines and Mr.Underhill, I have something to say to you.  Ms. Rodgers, you’re a bully. You have a Facebook page, Escambia Citizens Watch, which is nothing more than a petty, political gossip circle. People cannot openly express their opinion IF it IS NOT yours. You slander people behind their backs. Who does that? Cowards do that.

You personally attacked me in a realm that you prohibited me from seeing or responding in.  You bash my credibility with ignorant accusations. Pat Gonzalez was not a part of that discussion but because you had nothing intelligent to say, so you threw out your opinion on an unrelated matter. Not you, Haines or Underhill have the moxie to bring your opinions to me.  I haven’t blocked you. Say what you are going to say to me. Stand behind your comments. Allow the free exchange of thought. Don’t sic your spouses on me in private messages.

You, Miss Prim & Proper, do not even realize how ridiculous you have gotten.  Darrell Hicks posted something I received. It was a letter from a member of law enforcement who commented on things in that person’s wheelhouse.  Ms. Rodgers, you belittled Darrell for posting something you didn’t agree with.  You falsely labeled the post “anti-LEO”. What?  It was anti-Morgan–not anti-LEO.  Btw, Morgan isn’t even a law enforcement officer.  A cop talking about cop things cannot be anti-cop, but in your ignorance, Ms. Rodgers, you made that assertion. You stand in judgment to everyone with your little bitch boys, Haines and Underhill chiming in to give you legitimacy.  I am here to tell you that you, M‘am,  are the most closed minded, miseducated person around.  Your credibility is CRAP.   Also, who the hell are you any way?   What standing do you have that makes your OPINION better than mine or Darrell’s or anyone for that matter?   Please advise.

Ms. Rodgers, you are the Nellie Olsen of Escambia County

negative_nellie_oleson