FORT WORTH, Texas - The Fort Worth police officer involved in a controversial arrest will be suspended for 10 days without pay. Critics want him fired, but that’s not the direction the chief says he’s going.
Fort Worth Chief Joel Fitzgerald gave an update on the investigation during a press conference Monday afternoon. He said the officer let him down. The chief says he believes the 10-day suspension without pay is a strong enough punishment, but it doesn't stop there.
Police said on Monday it was the man who allegedly choked Jacqueline Craig's son who first called police and not the child's family.
Video showed Officer William Martin arguing with Craig after police were called to the neighborhood. Craig says the neighbor assaulted her 7-year-old son for littering, but the officer ended up arresting her and her two teenage daughters and never took a report on the initial call.
Chief Fitzgerald had a preliminary disciplinary meeting with Officer Martin Friday morning. He was issued a 10-day suspension without pay for violations including neglect of duty, discourtesy and inappropriate contact with two females.
The officer told the chief he is very sorry for what transpired and thinks the discipline is fair. The chief challenged him to get back into the neighborhood where it happened and re-establish the relationships damaged by the video.
In the viral Facebook video, Chief Fitzgerald says Martin committed several violations. The chief says besides being rude, Martin neglected his duty. And the way he handled two of the three women was inappropriate.
“He was very contrite. Realized his attitude was not proper. Understood the severity of what happened and that some of the things that transpired did not need to happen,” the chief said.
Officer Martin will also have to go through additional training. Chief Fitzgerald says he wants the officer to go back into the community and re-establish some the relations he feels have been damaged by what he saw on the video.
Craig and some community leaders want Officer Martin fired and charged. The department said it will forward all evidence in the case to a grand jury to see if charges should be brought against anyone involved.
Craig’s family says the chief failed the Fort Worth African-American community. That anger bled over into a protest Monday night in front of City Hall as they called for a change in the city's leadership.
"When thy let down the Craig family, they didn't just let her down — they let us down,” one protester said.
"A week's vacation is not sufficient enough for what happened to this family,” another protester said.
Craig's attorney, Lee Merritt, says the officer’s punishment was not enough.
"The Fort Worth Police Department sent a clear message to the community of Fort Worth by offering a 10-day vacation to an officer who ignored an assault on a minor,” Merritt said. "This officer was not a rookie officer. He doesn't need additional training. This officer was a veteran officer who had all the training he needed, and he decided to ignore that training and do what he chose to do based on his preconceived notions of the people who made the phone calls."
Merritt says he spoke with the chief before the news conference. The Chief asked to speak with Jacqueline Craig and her family but she declined.
The family is not ruling out the possibility of civil lawsuits as well.
Despite attorney requests, the charges against Craig and her daughters have not been dropped.
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