Fort Worth chief testifies at appeal of officer's suspension

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The Fort Worth officer at the center of a viral video from December that led to excessive force claims is appealing his 10-day unpaid suspension from the force.

The viral cell phone video and Officer William Martin's body camera video were played during a hearing Tuesday. The chief of police also testified and laid out why he believes the suspension was appropriate.

Chief Joel Fitzgerald told the independent arbitrator if he had to do it again, he'd give Officer Martin a 15-day suspension instead of 10 days because of the nature of excessive force. Fitzgerald says he suspended Martin after careful review.

The chief says Martin arrived on scene and failed to investigate the allegations that a child had been choked by a neighbor. Fitzgerald said what he found most troubling was what he saw on a cell phone and body camera video.

He says Martin used excessive force when he put a hand to the throat of a minor on scene who tried to intervene and when Martin lifted up the handcuffed arms of Craig's daughter to an obtuse angle because she wouldn't answer his questions.

“The first priority for Officer Martin should have been to check for that child, and he did not,” Fitzgerald said. “You didn't see that anger boil over until Officer Martin came into the situation and started speaking with her and applying dry humor and that led to the incident blowing up in my estimation.”

Terry Daffron, Martin's attorney, says Martin believes he could have handled things differently when it comes to how he spoke to Craig.

But while Craig's attorneys immediately called Martin's actions racist, Daffron says the department found that not to be true based on an investigation into his demeanor on previous calls.

"When we get an opportunity to present our case and we have the department's own use of force experts testify and also some patrol officers, I think you are going to see that's there's a very different view on whether his force was excessive,” Daffron said. “He's never had his opportunity to come out and tell his side of the story. And I think what we've seen thus far is a very one-sided view from the city."

If the arbitrator rules in Martin's favor, he could receive back pay for the suspension served and have his record cleared of excessive force allegations.

Officer Martin is expected to testify on Wednesday.

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