FORT WORTH, Texas - One of the Fort Worth police officers demoted after a body camera leak investigation is now speaking out against Chief Joel Fitzgerald. He and local pastors gathered Monday to call for the chief’s immediate termination.
Former Deputy Chief Vance Keyes denied any involvement and said the case against him is based on a bunch of speculation. He said he offered to take a polygraph test and allow investigators to search his personal electronic devices as long as he could record them inspecting his devices. Neither offer was taken up by the Fort Worth Police Department.
Keyes was clearly upset that his name and reputation he said have been attacked by his own department.
“I don't care your title, your position. You don't get to immune my character in the media and not expect a response from me,” Keyes said. “I'm not some back door dealing, double talking, sidestepping political puppet. I am a career public servant.”
On Friday, Chief Fitzgerald announced that both Assistant Police Chief Abdul Pridgen and Keyes were removed from the executive staff and returned to the rank of captain. He also suspended Keyes for three days and recommended that the Civil Service Commission return Pridgen to sergeant, two ranks below captain.
The two were accused of leaking body camera video that shows Officer William Martin taking Jacqueline Craig to the ground in handcuffs and arresting her daughters last December. Martin's personnel file was also leaked. The arrests led to protests and allegations of racial discrimination.
Officer Martin was suspended for 10 days following the controversial arrest and is still with the police department.
Fitzgerald explained the investigation found that the leaked files were downloaded to a flash drive from Pridgen's computer. Video and security evidence confirmed both Pridgen and Keyes were in his office at the time. The files were then uploaded to a public site by someone outside of the department.
In his letter, Chief Fitzgerald says Keyes was "not candid and forthcoming" under questioning and that phone records revealed he initiated "at least four text message conversations with Pridgen about Officer Martin."
In one exchange, "Keyes starts a text conversation with Pridgen about Martin and race, including sending a video titled colored people's justice." Keyes denied being deceptive during the investigation.
"Both of these men were in a chain of command that oversees the internal affairs section, and they had a unique duty to protect that information," Fitzgerald said. "Someone once said there's no right way to a wrong thing. I think that applies here."
As for the allegations against them, Keyes accused Chief Fitzgerald of putting his own personal ambition ahead of a fair internal investigation.
“Chief Fitzgerald is more concerned with political capital and upward mobility than with the welfare of the community,” Keyes said. “I must respect his position but no longer respect his judgment."
Keyes was surrounded by several pastors in the black community Monday morning. They argued that Keyes and Pridgen have been unjustly accused and punished while Martin, who “brutalized” Craig is back on the street.
The Rev. Michael Bell from Greater St. Stephens First Church said he regrets supporting the hiring of Chief Fitzgerald. He claimed Fitzgerald has lied repeatedly to the people who hired him and the people he serves.
The Rev. B.R. Daniels from Beth Eden Baptist Church said there is no confidence in Fitzgerald. Both he and Bell want the chief fired today.
Attorney Lee Merritt echoed their sentiment and called it a sad day for Fort Worth with blatant racism and hypocrisy.
Pridgen’s has also denied involvement in the leak. He claims he downloaded the video as part of the information the chief had requested on the arrest investigation, his attorney said.