Two Demoted FWPD Chiefs Say Mayor Is Trying to Duck Deposition

Hearing on dispute over mayor's testimony set for Tuesday

Two demoted Fort Worth assistant police chiefs claim Mayor Betsy Price is trying to duck a deposition in their lawsuit against the city.

City attorneys argue she has no relevant information to offer and shouldn't be required to give sworn testimony.

The former chiefs want a judge to order Price to answer questions.

A hearing on the dispute took place Tuesday morning. The judge did not issue a final ruling. 

Instead, she asked the former chiefs' attorneys to get depositions with other members of the Fort Worth Police Department command staff and an Assistant City Manager -- then to use their testimony to build a case for why Mayor Price should be deposed.

She also asked the city's attorneys to find case law that would support their position on why Price should not testify.

While they're doing that work, a temporary protective order will be in effect that prevents Price from being deposed until they return to court and the judge makes her final decision.

In May 2017, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald demoted Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen and Deputy Chief Vance Keyes to captain.

The move came after an internal investigation into whether the two had leaked body camera footage and secret disciplinary records of Officer William Martin, who made headlines after a viral video of his arrest of Jacqueline Craig in December 2016.

The investigation found the leaked files were the exact copies that Pridgen downloaded onto a thumb drive using his office computer at the exact time Keyes was in his office.

Pridgen and Keyes deny they were the source of the leak.

In a lawsuit, the two say they are whistleblowers who were retaliated against because they told the chief that Martin committed a crime in arresting Craig, a mother who had called 911 to report a neighbor grabbed her son by the neck.

Martin was suspended for 10 days.

Price had no comment Monday on the legal dispute over her deposition. The city's attorneys called it a "witch hunt" during Tuesday's hearing.

Seeking to avoid testifying, Price said in an affidavit that she has no "unique" or "superior" knowledge to offer.

She has said publicly that the police chief makes all disciplinary decisions.

An attorney for the demoted officers, Jason Smith, calls Price a "fact witness who directly participated" in the action against them.

"We think Mayor Price has some relevant information but for some reason she doesn't want to share that with the public," Smith said.

Keyes said Mayor Price became personally involved in the case early on, telling police commanders in an unusual conference call that the video was not a "big deal."

"I remember at one point there was mention of maybe showing the officer's body camera to city council and the mayor was against that," Keyes said. "She wanted city council to have plausible deniability."

Keyes said Price wanted to sweep the case under the rug to avoid more bad publicity.

Pridgen is now police chief in Seaside, California.

Keyes is a Fort Worth police captain. He was assigned to a midnight patrol shift after his demotion and more recently transferred to a desk job compiling crime statistics.

Craig filed a separate lawsuit in federal court. That case is still pending.

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