FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke announced Monday afternoon, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald has been fired.
His removal is effective immediately.
Cooke said Fitzgerald was given the opportunity to resign but he would not.
Executive Assistant Ed Kraus has been appointed Interim Police Chief.
Cooke said he determined a change in leadership was necessary for the citizens of Fort Worth and the men and women of the Fort Worth Police Department.
He said there was a series of issues that led to this decision.
“As the City Manager for the City of Fort Worth, it is my responsibility to make decisions and recommendations in the best interest of this community,” Cooke said. “Today, I’ve made the decision to remove Joel Fitzgerald as the Chief of Police for the Fort Worth Police Department.”
Cooke said Mayor Betsy Price did not have input in this decision.
“I am in full support of our City Manager’s decision to terminate Joel Fitzgerald as chief of police. These decisions are never made lightly, and I am confident we have reached the right conclusion for both our citizens and our police officers. Our citizens deserve a police chief who is committed to building relationships in all communities, by furthering trust and transparency. Our police officers, who risk their lives daily for our community, deserve a leader who will be present, active, and engaged.”
READ FITZGERALD’S TERMINATION LETTER HERE
Dallas-based lawyer Stephen Andrew Kennedy said his firm is representing Fitzgerald and is submitting a formal letter to the City Attorney seeking an administrative appeal of the decision to terminate Fitzgerald.
“I will tell you that this looks a lot like a retaliation,” Kennedy told CBS 11. “Because the chief has reported to DPS numerous violations of the criminal justice systems, federal regulations. As a result of him reporting that, the city is not in compliance with those regulations. He was immediately given two strongly worded letters that basically said the city believed he had acted improperly.”
Late last week, Mayor Price said the city was looking into the actions of the police chief during events meant to honor fallen officers.
Cooke said the incident brought into question Fitzgerald’s judgment and leadership.
The incident in question happened while Chief Fitzgerald was attending the 2019 Top Cop Awards in Washington, D.C.
The city said it was looking into whether there was a confrontation on stage between the chief and the president of The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT).
The chief was recently kicked out of the state police union, because he’s not a local member.
Price said she had received several calls that this was a confrontation.
“I wasn’t at the event, so I can’t say firsthand, but I had numerous calls about it. I said yesterday in a statement, we want all our officers held to the most professional standard and it appears right now that wasn’t what happened here,” said Price last Friday.
Manny Ramirez, the Fort Worth Police Officers Association President, said, “It was a personal issue between our chief of police and the statewide union.”
Ramirez said he witnessed the incident in DC.
“We were disappointed,” he said. “It distracted from the reason why we were there. We had two officers that did tremendous acts of service and won the nation’s top cop award.”
Ramirez told CBS 11, the FWPOA stands behind City Manager’s decision, but thank Chief Fitzgerald for his hard work and what he did for the department.
Fitzgerald took over for Jeffrey Halstead as Fort Worth Police Chief in October 2015.
The president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, Manny Ramirez, says officers are “looking forward to the next era of leadership.”
Interim Chief Kraus began his career with the Fort Worth Police Department in 1992.
He has served as an officer, detective and sergeant in several units in the Patrol Bureau. His command experience includes assignments as a Neighborhood Policing District lieutenant, a Patrol Division captain, commander of the Training Division and deputy chief over the Investigative and Support Command. Most recently, Kraus oversaw the Patrol Bureau.