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:
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?