Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead announced Tuesday he is retiring after six years leading the police department of the nation's 17th largest city.
Halstead's retirement was first announced by City Manager David Cooke, who heaped praise on the chief during a pre-council meeting Tuesday. Cooke then introduced Halstead who promptly gave much of the credit of his success in reducing the city's crime rate for six straight years to the department's employees, both sworn and civilian.
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"I had the pride and the privilege of serving the most dedicated employees I have ever seen in my life. They're amazing," Halstead said. "I give all my thanks to my faith, my family. I have to say the employees of this organization they are a class act and I stand here with pride because of what they accomplish. It is an absolute honor to stand in this position, wearing this badge and I love this community for it. Thank you very much."
Of the community, Halstead said that while he is retiring he and his family are not leaving Fort Worth.
"Your community in Fort Worth is the most supportive of the law enforcement profession I've seen in 26 years of this business. The residents of this city are truly amazing," Halstead said. "This is our home. My wife is a native Texan, I know if I want another 27 years of happy marriage I better stay in Texas."
Halstead's departure will not be immediate, he will continue to lead the department and assist in the transition to a new chief until Jan. 9, 2015.
"We congratulate Chief Halstead on his retirement,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said Tuesday. “It’s a tough job, being the police chief for a major American city. But he can be proud of his legacy. You can’t argue the fact that crime is down, and we remain among the safest large city in the nation. Now the job falls to our City Manager to find a suitable replacement. I’m confident in David [Cooke]’s ability to outline a process to do just that "
In previous interviews Halstead has said he's tried to maintain a commitment to preserving the public's trust in the Fort Worth Police Department. Meanwhile, in his six years leading the department, he has faced both calls for his resignation and claims of ineffective leadership while others heaped praise on the chief for positive, and sometimes controversial, changes he's made within the department.
Drop in Crime Rate
During Halstead's six years as chief, the crime rate dropped every year. According to National Incident-Based Reporting System records, the city saw a 21.4 percent decrease in all reportable crimes between 2008 and 2013.
“I want to thank Chief Halstead for his service to Fort Worth and for his many years of service to the police profession,” City Manager David Cooke said. “Fort Worth now enjoys a declining crime rate, and much of the credit goes to Chief Halstead and his leadership over the last six years. He is the ultimate professional, and we salute him for never losing sight of our goal to make Fort Worth the safest large city in the nation.”
In a statement following the chief's announcement, Cooke released a statement highting some of Halstead's other accomplishments.
"Numerous new police facilities were opened during Halstead’s tenure, including a new crime lab, Nashville Sector Headquarters, a new Hemphill Division and a Meacham Patrol Division. A state-of-the-art Public Safety Training System is under construction, and a sixth patrol division, in far north Fort Worth, is in the planning stages," the statement read.
Though there were many highlights, Halstead's tenure as chief also faced many challenges that he described Tuesday as some of his "darkest moments."
"I had absolutely no idea that that first year would have been that challenging. My wife never ever lost support for me. She saw me at the darkest moments of this position and prayed, prayed daily in a journal, and would show me months later how her prayers made me successful," Halstead said Tuesday."
Rainbow Lounge Raid
In 2009, after just six months on the job, Halstead mended relations between the department and members of the city's gay community following a controversial raid of the Rainbow Lounge, a gay bar, on the 40th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the gay rights movement.
Relations between the department and members of the gay community were strained after several Fort Worth police officers and two agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the bar and arrested five patrons on suspicion of public intoxication. Customers complained the officers were rude and used excessive force that led to a severe head injury for one of the patrons.
Two state agents were fired and several police officers were disciplined after internal investigations faulted the way the raid was conducted. Halstead apologized for the raid and appointed an openly lesbian officer to serve as liaison to the gay community. The city, meanwhile, ended up paying several settlements while adding diversity training for officers.
Shooting of Charal Thomas
In 2011, several community leaders called for Halstead's resignation after the controversial officer-involved shooting of Charal Thomas, a man shot and killed by police at a traffic stop in front of his three children.
When the driver, Thomas, refused to exit the vehicle, the officer reached inside the car to open the door. The driver rolled up the window, trapping the officer, and began to pull away, police said. The officer then shot fatally shot the man.
At a town meeting, Halstead told an assembled crowd that the department didn't have an exact protocol on what to do if a child is in the car when deadly force might be used and asked for patience while the department investigated the shooting. The chief's statement's didn't pacify the crowd, many of whom called for his resignation.
Halstead continued to call on the community to keep an open dialogue as the department evaluated their protocol for using deadly force in the presence of children, as well as whether officers should reach into open windows during traffic stops.
Fort Worth Police Ban Typing While Driving
In 2013, in response to an NBC 5 investigative series on distracted driving, Halstead implemented a tough policy aimed at reducing officer-related crashes by forbidding officers from using their mobile computers while driving. NBC 5 Investigates learned that in three years 15 officer-involved crashes were caused by distractions inside of police cars.
Halstead's new distracted driving policy gave officers some flexibility, such as using a one-touch response showing that they are in route to a call, arriving on the scene or have an emergency. But if they need to type anything more than that, they have to pull over and stop the vehicle.
Zero Tolerance Policy for Drinking and Driving
Later that year Halstead implemented a zero-tolerance policy for officers caught drinking and driving after more than a half dozen high-profile arrests of department personnel, including a member of his executive staff, since 2009.
Since the implementation of the zero-tolerance policy, Halstead has kept a running tally of the days passed without an arrest outside of his office. That tally reached one year over the summer and the department has reported no arrests of officers suspected of driving while intoxicated since the policy was put in force.
Fort Worth Police Receive Body Cameras
In 2013, Halstead was credited with outfitting more than 600 officers with body cameras in an effort to provide the public with greater transparency regarding the day-to-day interactions between the public and police officers.
Halstead said the cameras will also help answer questions during controversial incidents involving police officers.
Allegation of Discrimination, Harassment Inside the FWPD
In September 2014, Halstead received a vote of confidence from the Fort Worth city council and city manager that he could bring about further changes to improve the department following complaints by some officers of racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation within the police department.
An investigation of the complaints, referred to as the Coleman Report, was released Aug. 22 and looked into complaints filed by three black officers.
The city council created a 21-point action plan for the chief to adhere to regarding police encounters with citizens, responses to critical police incidents and a plan "for increasing and respecting diversity within the department."
"I have a lot of work to do. I have staff that has a lot of work to do on this," Halstead told NBC 5 in September. "And we will do better."
The action plan requires that the chief update the council starting in December 2014 and throughout 2015 and that the city manager's office would be directly involved in monitoring the progress of the plan. During Tuesday's pre-council meeting, Price said the action plan would be tabled until a new chief is hired.
Halstead was named the Fort Worth Police Department's 24th chief in December 2008. Before leading approximately 1,500 officers in the Fort Worth Police Department, Halstead served in a variety of capacities with the Phoenix Police Department including the bomb squad, internal affairs, professional standards, traffic and other intra-agency task forces, according to his biography on the Fort Worth Police Department's web page.
Halstead has a Bachelor of Arts in Law Enforcement Administration from Ottawa University and a Master of Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University.
NBC 5's Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.