Fort Worth

Detective Fired for Mishandling Child Abuse Cases

A veteran Fort Worth police detective failed to arrest a registered sex offender linked to the rape of a young girl, mishandled claims by two girls that their father sexually abused them and allowed "multiple offenders" to avoid arrest or prosecution, according to investigators.

Concerns with Dennis Hutchins' work in the Crimes Against Children unit were first raised in March over his handling of an earlier case, according to a copy of his disciplinary letter that was signed by police Chief Joel Fitzgerald. The unit supervisor learned the case was never filed with Tarrant County Juvenile Services and when he questioned Hutchins, the detective said he forgot and "lost track of this case," according to the letter.

As a result, a review was ordered for cases Hutchins worked over the last two years, the findings of which led to Hutchins' firing this week. The 24-year veteran of the department has appealed. His attorney, Terry Daffron, said he was overworked in a unit that's significantly understaffed.

"Detective Hutchins is not claiming that there were not mistakes made," she said. "The department is putting out this one aspect without looking at the entire circumstance, which is that these detectives in the Crimes Against Children unit are significantly overworked."

Among the allegations against Hutchins are that he didn't arrest a sex offender who was linked by DNA evidence to the sexual assault of a 9-year-old who was kidnapped while walking to school in 2002, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. The offender later was arrested after allegedly trying to kidnap two other girls.

In another instance, authorities say Hutchins didn't fully investigate claims by two sisters that they were abused by their father, who was recently arrested after a third sibling said she, too, was abused, according to the Star-Telegram.

"His actions resulted in the lack of arrest and prosecution of multiple offenders and justice for juvenile victims," Hutchins' disciplinary letter stated.

A spokesman for the Fort Worth Police Officers Association did not return a call for comment by the AP.

But Daffron said the review was rushed and Hutchins wasn't allowed to properly defend himself, and that the department has been aware for years that specialized units like Crimes Against Children are understaffed.

Sgt. Marc Povero, a department spokesman, acknowledged there are concerns with staffing levels in some units.

"With the growth within the city over the last 15 years, the need for more personnel has only increased," he told the Star-Telegram.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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