Fort Worth Police Officers Criticize Chief in Survey

Chief blasts survey as "unscientific"

Highlighting racial tensions and distrust in the Fort Worth Police Department, the police officers' association on Monday released the results of a survey critical of Chief Joel Fitzgerald’s leadership.

Asked if department morale has gotten better or worse under the chief's leadership, 84 percent of officers said it was worse. Only three percent said it has improved.

Asked if the chief has "promoted a sense of unity and teamwork among officers," 78 percent said no, nine percent were unsure and 13 percent said yes.

Asked how much confidence they have in Fitzgerald's leadership on a scale of one to 10, officers gave the chief a score of 3.92. In another part of the survey which asked about specific traits, officers graded him 3.7.

In a statement, Fitzgerald blasted the survey as "unscientific" and said participation was low. But he also pledged to work with officers to address their concerns.

The Fort Worth Police Officers Association represents about 1,600 of the city’s 1,700 sworn officers. Some 465 officers participated in the survey.

"I have more questions about the timing and the tactics than I do about the content of this POA-styled 'survey,'" the chief said in a statement.

Fitzgerald said the results "dramatically contradict" a separate employee survey taken in 2016.

"Nevertheless I stand ready to meet with the POA so we can identify and resolve membership concerns," he added.

POA President Rick Van Houten did not call on Fitzgerald to be fired or resign but said the results speak for themselves.

"In the end we will work with whoever is the chief to the best of our ability," Van Houten said. "It has been extremely difficult. But having said that, we will continue to do whatever we can to work on behalf of the officers of this great department."

Mayor Betsy Price released a statement saying she would reserve her opinion about the results but expressed "full confidence" in the city manager's office to resolve any issues.

"I acknowledge there may be internal struggles within the police department," the mayor said. "I am committed to working with Chief Fitzgerald, our city manager and all labor groups to ensure we are supporting our police officers and remain one of the safest big cities in the nation."

Some officers have been critical of Fitzgerald for his actions following Officer William Martin’s controversial arrest of Jacqueline Craig in December. Video of the arrest went viral.

The chief suspended Martin for 10 days – a punishment criticized by some officers as excessive. Many community activists said he should have been fired.

The case led to a shakeup at the highest levels of the department when two assistant chiefs were accused of leaking Officer Martin's body camera video and private personnel files.

Asked if all officers discipplined by the same standards, irrespective of race, rank or seniority, 84 percent anwered no.

The association said the survey was designed to measure officer’s opinions of the chief’s performance and was not specifically a vote of “no confidence.”

The chief serves at the pleasure of the city manager.

City manager David Cooke said he supports the chief.

"It's difficult to understand the timing of this survey or why a news conference was called today," Cooke said.

Cooke noted that a city task force on race and culture also was meeting Monday.

"Communication starts with conversation," he said.

Fitzgerald started his job in October 2015 and was previously the chief in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

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