Fort Worth PD chief says progress made on healing racial divide

Fort Worth's police chief addressed the city's Task Force on Race Relations on Monday and said progress is being made on healing divide between police and the black community.

The event amounted to a progress report from Chief Joel Fitzgerald and he said changes are being made to address community concerns in training, policy and procedures.           

"We don't do it all right, but we don't do it all wrong either,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald became police chief in October 2015 in the midst of what the "Fort Worth Weekly" has termed a "Hot Blue Mess."

The Task Force on Race Relations was appointed by city leaders in August, largely in response to tensions ignited by the last year's controversial arrest of Jaqueline Craig -- a black mother who called police about a neighbor she alleged had assaulted her son only to be arrested instead.

"Open and honest communication is the only way we are going to get through the tough time we're seeing right now,” Fitzgerald said.

The arresting officer, William Martin, was suspended for ten days. But the fallout continued after two black members of the command staff were accused of leaking body cam video of the arrest and demoted. Abdul Pridgen and Vance Keyes have since filed a lawsuit.

But tension had been simmering for years, including two reports dating back to 2013 and concerns over in-custody deaths, excessive force and racial discrimination.

"It's not just the Craig incident, these are policy and procedural changes as I discussed that really just needed to happen,” Fitzgerald said.

Some at the event expressed concern that real progress has yet to be made. But most seem to accept that, at least, real conversation has begun.

"Cautiously optimistic,” said Rev. Kyev Tatum, Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “We've been here long enough to know you don't change a culture overnight, but at least we're talking about it."

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