The Fort Worth police chief got an ear-full from community members when he explained his rationale behind the punishment for an officer accused of being racist in a recent viral arrest video.
Chief Joel Fitzgerald, Mayor Betsy Price and several city council members met with community members at a meeting at Christ Church in south Fort Worth Thursday night.
Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters were arrested after she called police to report that a neighbor had assaulted her 7-year-old son.
Officer William Martin was suspended for 10 days without pay because of the way he handled the call. A Tarrant County grand jury will review the case to decide if he, or anyone else involved in the incident, will face charges.
During the Thursday meeting, there were several times when things got heated and people raised their voice in anger at city officials.
Chief Fitzgerald began by trying to correct what he called was a misconception about the alleged choking and spent the rest of the night defending his decisions and his department.
Craig told dispatchers her neighbor choked her son for littering. The chief's demonstrated what other kids in the neighborhood saw and the 7-year-old's statement to detectives.
Choking, as described by the chief, is a hand on the front of the throat restricting blood or a person's airway. He said what really happened before the arrest was not choking.
“This is something that should never happen,” Fitzgerald said. “One citizen should never put their hand on another citizen's child."
The chief said Officer Martin violated several department policies because he was rude and neglected his duty and for the inappropriate way he handled two of the three women he arrested.
But it was another allegation that the officer kicked one of Craig's daughters that drew a heated exchange between the Chief and Craig.
While Craig's attorney called the officer's action racist, the chief says the offer was rude, but not racist.
The chief's decision to send Officer Martin back to the same community to mend some of the relationships was also criticized by several in the audience.
"We don't want the officer back regardless of any reason that might be given,” one man said.
“What you’re telling us is that he can assault our community and you’re going to give him redemption by throwing him back in our neighborhood,” another man said.
“We can agree to disagree,” the chief said.