In the wake of a fatal police shooting that has stoked racial tension throughout the city, the Fort Worth Police Department has decided to stop pairing rookie officers together on patrol shifts, particularly at night, NBC 5 Investigates has learned.
Mayor Betsy Price revealed the change in city policing during an exclusive interview, saying interim Police Chief Ed Kraus was in the process of making sure more experienced officers are with newer cops on patrol, in hopes of avoiding rookie mistakes -- like the ones city officials said were made during the early morning hours of Oct. 12.
When officer Aaron Dean and his partner arrived at Atatiana Jefferson's home that night, each had only been on the force for 18 months.
Authorities said Dean made a big rookie mistake, as they searched the grounds to see why Jefferson's front door was open at such an odd hour.
He didn't yell that they were police as they entered her backyard, flashlights in hand.
Jefferson was believed to be peering out her window, wondering what was going on, as the officers approached.
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Caught on body-cam video, Dean shouts: "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!"
He is then seen firing one shot through the window, killing Jefferson, with her 8-year-old nephew nearby.
Inexperience likely played a role in what happened that night, Price told NBC 5 Investigates.
"One thing I do have concerns about, and Chief Kraus is already addressing it, is the pairing of two rookies together, particularly on a late-night shift," the mayor said.
Under former Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, the department began to pair rookie officers together on late-night patrols, as a way to award more experienced officers with better daylight hours, Price said.
The practice is "quickly being undone," she said.
Since June, Fort Worth police have shot and killed six people, four of them black, including the 28-year-old Jefferson.
Jefferson's death sparked protests throughout the city, with calls for the mayor and other white leaders in the city and police department to step down.
"I think that everybody's entitled to their own opinion," Price said.
While acknowledging a need for more diversity within the police department, she said she does not believe it has caused officers to treat minorities differently.
"I don't think that's the case at all. I don't think that any of us govern, and I don't think our officers operate, based on the color of your skin," Price said.
She said she's pushed her staff to quickly hire a police monitor, and appoint an independent oversight board, to continually evaluate the force.
But the mayor said she was against a call to bring in the U.S. Justice Department, by court order, to watch over the department.
"I just don't think that it's going to do anything more than add another layer of governance, another cumbersome level," Price said.
And for those who feel they are not being equally represented by city leadership, she said: "You know, vote. Nine percent of our voters turned out in the last municipal election. If you truly feel like you aren't represented by those who are serving, then you need to step up, or you need to find somebody to step up."