Ex-Fort Worth police chief testifies in effort to get job back

Former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald testified Tuesday in a lawsuit where he is trying to get his job back.

Fitzgerald talked about the moment he was fired from his post six months ago and said it was in retaliation after he tried to expose corruption at city hall. But some members of the Fort Worth Police Department claim they lost confidence in their leader.

The hearing Fitzgerald testified at is to determine if a restraining order remains in place blocking the city from naming a permanent police chief.

“I’ve heard it put that I can’t come to grips with the fact that I was terminated,” Fitzgerald said. “Well you’re right, because I didn’t deserve to be terminated. I’ve never deserved to be terminated. I’ve had a great career.”

Fitzgerald described the meeting where he was handed a document outlining his termination.

“I was able to see some of the wording and I knew it was, in my opinion, bogus,” Fitzgerald said.

The former chief said he’s had a tough time finding another job after he was fired.

“I’ve received about 105 at this time, rejection letters for jobs I’ve applied to. Those are the jobs that have responded,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also spoke in depth about the investigation he says doomed his career. He was looking into city it employees whom he says had criminal histories, but were still allowed access to sensitive federal data through the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS). He said he found a breach in the system.

“Operational plans, weapons. When I say operational plans, if SWAT intends to do a search warrant, then they are planning and putting on operational plans, tangible records they would be hitting or executing a warrant at a certain house,” Fitzgerald said. “They could say at a certain time this is what they’re doing, this is what unit is assigned to it. These are all police sensitive and critical types of information that makes CJIS a necessity.”

Fitzgerald testified that for more than a year the department falsely claimed to remediate the problem. He said when it was clear there was deception he wrote a 10-page memo to the city manager stating his intent to turn over his findings to the feds. But just before a scheduled meeting with the FBI, he was fired.

Fitzgerald was asked why he’d want his job back after everything city leaders have said about him after his firing.

“I may report to the assistant city manager, city manager. I may work for city government, but I also work for the people. The people don’t trust the city of Fort Worth. People don’t trust their safety in Fort Worth and that wasn’t being said ‘til after I was terminated. I feel like I let the people down because I got fired,” Fitzgerald said.

The former chief said there are things that can happen that would restore his reputation.

“The truth, an apology and being sworn back in as the chief of police.”