Fort Worth

Fort Worth Narrows Down Police Chief Search to 6 Candidates

Tuesday, Fort Worth city council will hear the plan on the final interview process planned for January. A family is also speaking out about their hope for a new leader.

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On Tuesday, the search for a new Fort Worth police chief is getting closer to the finish line.

Council members will hear the plan to interview the final six candidates in the coming weeks, which includes a socially-distanced community forum.

This comes after outgoing Chief Ed Kraus announced in July that he wanted to retire by the end of the year. He took over in May 2019 after previous Chief Joel Fitzgerald was fired. There has been a special hearing and even a lawsuit in the last year after Fitzgerald claimed he was fired for investigating corruption in the city.

Here are the final six candidates vying to lead Fort Worth PD, narrowed down from more than 50 applicants.

Wendy Baimbridge

Since March 2017, Baimbridge has been assistant chief of the Houston Police Department. Her tenure with HPD started in 1992. She has a master of arts degree in sociology from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Houston.

Troy Gay

Gay has been with the Austin Police Department since 1991 and has served as assistant chief at the Austin Police Department since January 2013. Gay has a bachelor's degree from Texas State University, performed graduate work in criminal justice at the University of Virginia and graduated from the FBI National Academy.

Christopher C. Jones

Jones has a bachelor of arts degree in criminal justice from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and graduated from the FBI National Academy. Since February 2020, he has been assistant sheriff with the Las Vegas Municipal Police Department.

Derick D. Miller

Miller has 28 years of service with the Carrollton Police Department and has served as Chief of Police there since November 2017. He has a master of arts degree in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Texas at Arlington and a graduate certificate in criminal justice education from the University of Virginia.

Neil Noakes

Noakes has a master of science degree in criminal justice and criminology from Texas Christian University and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration from Tarleton State University. Since March 2019, he has been deputy chief of the Fort Worth Police Department.

Julie A. Swearingin

Swearingin is assistant chief of the Fort Worth Police Department. She has a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice administration from Tarleton State University and graduated from the FBI National Academy.

Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa said they will all be coming for in-person interviews in January. Right now, the group is completing some written exercises.

Then comes the big part, a community forum where the public will get to meet the candidates. The city finalized the details on Monday.

A community meeting to meet the candidates will take place on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fort Worth Convention Center Ballroom.

The city will ensure there is plenty of room for social distancing. Masks will be enforced and COVID-19 protocol will be in place.

The meeting will also be streamed live on FWTV, the city's website and social media. Residents may submit comments for city management and questions for candidates to until Jan. 9.

The city's goal now is to make a choice by the end of January.

A family's hope

One family that plans to be at that community meeting is Atatiana Jefferson's.

She was shot and killed by a now-former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean in her home on Oct. 2019. Dean was indicted for murder in December 2019. A trial date has not been set yet.

Her older sister, Ashley Carr, spoke with NBC 5 about what she hopes to see in the next leader.

“Accountability, there needs to be someone in that position who is not afraid of holding police officers accountable for their negligence on the job," she said. “That has to be their main, top goal. To want to have a fair, honest police department that are policing the neighborhoods the correct way. And not coming in with pre-determined ideas about the people that they’re policing."

Carr said she thinks the best candidate would be willing and motivated to cultivate more programs that would support the youth, help the homeless and poor and improve race relations.

“Communities need policing, we understand that but it’s how you police our communities," she said.

In fact, she and her family have launched the Atatiana Project, a nonprofit named in honor of her sister. They are working to obtain a building in the family's neighborhood to transform into a community center. They are raising money to hit the ground running with their mission to serve those in need through Atatiana's memory.

“Our goal is to start a summer program and to develop it into an after school program, somewhere where the kids can go," Carr said. “These are programs that neighborhoods in Fort Worth need. They need food and education programs that are uplifting them, showing them other ways of being successful.“

Carr said The Atatiana Project is on a mission to improve the Fort Worth community. This weekend, there's a ceremony to rename a street by the family home.

She hopes the Atatiana Project can work with future police leadership to create more understanding and change in Fort Worth.

“I’m hoping that the person who becomes the next chief is all about the community and how to uplift the people that they’re serving. And if that’s not what they were about then they shouldn’t be a candidate at all," she said.

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