Fort Worth police chief apologizes for 'mistakes'

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by CASEY NORTON

WFAA

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 29 at 11:46 PM

FORT WORTH — In an exclusive interview with News 8, Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead has apologized for what he called "mistakes."

He said he should have been better at communicating legal issues surrounding a new cell phone tracking system, and he said he sent a formal apology to an innocent person named in the TCU drug bust.

"Our employees do make mistakes, and as soon as they do, we apologize to anyone that we have offended," Halstead said.

On day one of the TCU drug bust, arrest warrants incorrectly named a member of a prominent Dallas family. Halstead said he directed a Captain to call the family that night. Halstead recently followed up with a written apology.

Halstead believes the TCU case is solid and based on strong police work. He doesn't believe the identification error has compromised the rest of the investigation, and the district attorney has not informed him about any concerns.

The police chief also talked to News 8 about the recent purchase of a KingFish cell phone tracking system. Courts haven't yet made a definitive ruling about whether the high-tech device requires a warrant, but Halstead said he has issued his own mandate to investigators.

"In this police department, under my administration, it will always require a search warrant or a court order to activate this technology," he said. "For many reasons, but the most important reason is, we have a solid foundation of public trust."

Civil rights groups raised red flags with the purchase order that indicated the police department would use the KingFish in "developing probable cause."

The American Civil Liberties Union says that phrase left open the possibility that officers could track the movements of anyone's cell phone without a judge's approval.

Halstead said that purchase order form was not written by an investigator. "There needs to be stronger review of every word of those, because sometimes it can be misunderstood ... and sent out to other people that don't have the intrinsic knowledge of complex investigations," the chief said.

Halstead said he should have better communicated all of those concerns to the City Council. He blamed scheduling conflicts, and added he has since met with most Council members to discuss the issue.

"I would not want one of our Council members or elected officials speaking without a formal intelligence briefing either from myself or a legal representative from the city," Halstead said. "And I take responsibility for that, and I apologize to the mayor and Council that it placed them in a particular situation. That's not the intent at all."

The police chief said he apologizes to anyone who had concerns about the misuse of the KingFish device. He says he is committed to building trust — and not marring years of solid police work.

E-mail cnorton@wfaa.com

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