The Fort Worth Police Officers Association publicly took on Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald in a press conference Wednesday, calling into question a recent firing and the training Fort Worth police officers receive.
The dramatic video of the shooting that caused Officer Courtney Johnson to lose his job shows him racking a shotgun, and running over to the man he shot.
“I still want to be a Fort Worth police officer. I still want to serve and protect this great city,” Johnson said Wednesday in his first public speaking since he was fired.
He says a lack of training was partly to blame for firing his shotgun intentionally and wounding an unarmed mentally ill man named Craig Adams. Adams was kneeling and had put down the barbecue fork he’d been holding.
Wednesday, the Fort Worth Police Officers Association called for more training and more support from the top.
“There are significant concerns about the current state of affairs,” said Sgt. Rick Van Houten, president of the FWPOA.
In fact, Van Houten said Chief Joel Fitzgerald’s handling of cases like Johnson’s have officers questioning his support.
“Almost two years into his administration, the morale in this department is as low as I’ve ever seen it in 22 years,” Van Houten said.
Attorney Terry Daffron, who’s representing Johnson in his bid to get his job back, said she believes Johnson was fired to make up for the fact that another high-profile officer was not. Officer William Martin was suspended for 10 days after the chief said he used excessive force against a family. The whole thing was caught on video.
“The chief caught a lot of flack, and a lot of people didn't agree with his decision (with) Martin,” Daffron said, “and I think that did influence his decision as it relates to Courtney Johnson.”
They also question the timing of Johnson’s firing. It came the same day as a new race relations task force was announced in the city. Chief Fitzgerald gave this response when we asked about the allegations.
“The Fort Worth Police Department respects the right of the Association to hold press conferences at will and also respects Courtney Johnson’s due process right to appeal, but will not provide any comment on matters that are still open for arbitration.”
But WFAA did ask him about the two cases the day Johnson was fired.
“Can you talk a little bit about grappling with those two cases and the outcomes being so different?” WFAA asked.
“They really are different. Neither case has anything to do with the other, so it would be unfair to compare the two,” Chief Fitzgerald said then.
But officers are comparing the two, and wondering what’s next for the department.