Former Fort Worth Police Chief Suing City Over His Firing - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Former Fort Worth Police Chief Suing City Over His Firing

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Former Fort Worth Chief of Police Suing City

    Representatives for former Fort Worth Chief of Police Joel Fitzgerald are planning a news conference for 3 p.m. Friday. (Published Friday, June 7, 2019)

    It is former Chief Joel Fitzgerald against Fort Worth. On Friday, the former top cop’s attorney announced plans to sue the city over his firing, claiming it was retaliation.

    Fitzgerald sat silently with his family as his lawyer, Stephen Kennedy, argued against every reason listed for firing him in Fort Worth Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa's May 20, 2019 Memorandum terminating the chief for cause.

    Fitzgerald's attorney said last month the termination was retaliation and accused the city of destroying evidence.

    "He was hired to clean up the department and there's no way that you can walk into a 1950s style police department and bring it to the new century without cracking a few eggs," Kennedy said.

    During his three and a half years as chief, Fitzgerald disciplined more than 50 officers.

    "He got a lot of pushback," said Kennedy.

    In one accusation in the memo, the city objected to Fitzgerald writing memos to himself alleging discrimination then refusing to move forward with an investigation.

    "The city cannot use Dr. Fitzgerald's claim of discrimination as a basis for terminating him with cause," Kennedy said.

    The city also accused Fitzgerald of overspending, but his attorney said he tried several ways to reduce the department's budget.

    "One such example was his request that the Mayor's $800,000 five-cop security detail be reduced," said Kennedy.

    Kennedy says the city refused and cut Fitzgerald's one part-time security officer instead.

    But the attorney claims the true reason for the firing comes down to a whistleblower complaint. Fitzgerald had warned the city that they were violating federal regulations surrounding a critical FBI database known as CJIS that includes people’s fingerprints, DNA and police reports. Kennedy says Fitzgerald had planned to share evidence with the FBI.

    "He had on his computerized calendar, the appointment with the FBI and he was terminated one hour before that appointment," Kennedy said.

    Fitzgerald's attorney plans to file a second lawsuit in the coming weeks specifically about the ex-chief's discrimination complaints.

    A city spokesperson released the following statement Friday:

    “The City continues to be fully prepared to defend itself against these absurd allegations. To be clear, the City has affirmed our CJIS certification with the Department of Public Safety. The City stands behind the decision to terminate the Chief’s employment.”

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