North Texas

City Leaders Asked about Police Chief's Commitment

In an interview with the editorial board of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Mayor Betsy Price and City Manager David Cooke said they'd like to see Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald out in the community, proving his commitment to North Texas.

In the interview, Mayor Price said, "He's got to reconnect with his troops, and he's got to reconnect with with the community."

The mayor does not handle hiring and firing in the city – that role falls to the city manager, but the Star Telegram pointed to other friction between the chief and city leadership – citing a draft email Fitzgerald never sent that alleged racial bias in his treatment.

The comments come after Chief Fitzgerald's high-profile application for the chief position in the Baltimore Police Department. Fitzgerald took his name out of the running in January citing, in part, a medical emergency involving his son.

Reverend Kyev Tatum, a Fort Worth pastor and activist, said he believes Chief Fitzgerald isn't being treated fairly.

"It's a perpetuation of the same old problem," said Tatum.

"For some reason, when there's an African American making the decisions, it makes this city very, very uncomfortable," added Tatum.

Tatum, who said he has not always backed Fitzgerald, said the chief has worked to engage the community in Fort Worth.

"I think it's a sad day in the City of Fort Worth for them to treat him that way and he's done what they've asked him to do – get rid of problematic officers, raise the standards," said Tatum.

Fort Worth Police Officers Association President Manny Ramirez said the approximately 1,700 officers he represents simply want some direction.

"I think that's a conversation for city management and the mayor, as far as how they work that out and how they work on gauging that commitment," said Ramirez. "I do know that we need a clear direction from all of our city management, from all our city leaders."

"It's not just the chief saying he wants to stay here, we need to know what the path forward is," Ramirez added.

Chief Fitzgerald faced criticism from the association this week after the firing of a rookie officer over a shooting in April. The association said the termination was unfair because the officer was let go just before she would have been eligible to appeal.

"We really want to see it shown to the officers, we just want to make sure the chief is committed to fair processes for all of his officers, giving due process to all of our officers, make sure that everybody gets fair treatment," said Ramirez.

A police spokesperson said Fitzgerald was in training and unavailable to comment on Thursday.

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