Atatiana Jefferson

Year After Atatiana Jefferson's Death, Fort Worth Vows to Continue Police Reforms

Mayor Betsy Price led roundtable discussion at Texas Wesleyan University

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Nearly a year after the killing of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, city leaders vowed to continue making changes in a push for racial justice.

"In some ways it's hard to believe it's been an entire year," Mayor Betsy Price said at a town hall meeting at Texas Wesleyan University.

Jefferson’s family and others attended the discussion but seating was limited to keep social distancing.

Police officer Aaron Dean was fired and charged with murder after he shot and killed Jefferson in her own home on Allen Avenue on Oct. 12, 2019. The trial is pending.

"There is hard work going on and it started long ago,” Price said. “But it really ramped up after we lost Atatiana."

In the last year, Fort Worth hired its first diversity director, police monitor and deputy police monitor.

"We're here for a reason. And it's not a good reason,” Deputy Police Chief Neil Noakes said. “We're here to honor a life that was lost. And we're here to talk about change."

He said training now stresses de-escalation.

City Council Member Kelly Allen Gray spoke directly to Jefferson's family.

"I'm going to stop because I have tears in my heart because your hurt is my hurt and I need you to know that,” Gray said.

Jefferson’s oldest sister Ashley Carr spoke at the end of the meeting.

"I would like to thank the community for being with our family since day one,” Carr said. “We appreciate you guys always lifting us up, calling and checking on us."

Everyone on the panel, including top city managers, agreed race is an issue and vowed to address it.

"Racial injustice has affected Fort Worth for as long as Fort Worth has existed,” Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said.

And the discussion left little doubt it still does.

"Are we done? No. We're nowhere near done,” the mayor said.

Despite creating several new positions like police monitor, Fort Worth still hasn’t created a police citizen review board like other large cities.

That was a recommendation made by the Race and Culture Task Force, which was formed after the controversial arrest of Jacqueline Craig in 2016.

A proposal to create a citizen review board could go to the city council as early as next month.

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