'You've made race relations worse': Retired sergeant pens open letter to FWPD chief

Retired sergeant pens open letter to FWPD chief

In 2016, a white Fort Worth police officer was indicted for shooting a black man, who was kneeling outside his own home, holding a barbecue fork. The officer had been searching for a prowler.

Later that year, a yet-unidentified Fort Worth officer shot a black man in the back, paralyzing him. Authorities say he'd threatened law enforcement with a box cutter.

And at the end of 2016, in a video viewed all around the world, we saw a white Fort Worth officer become physical with a black mother and her children, after she'd called police for help. That officer was suspended for 10 days.

"When I first saw the video, my gut just — I had a knot," retired Fort Worth PD Sgt. Kevin Fitchett said.

In all three cases, the officers have, so far, kept their jobs. And that was enough for Fitchett, who retired last year after three decades on the force, to speak out.

Last week, he wrote an open letter to FWPD Chief Joel Fitzgerald. He circulated it to colleagues and media. In it, he questioned how Fitzgerald, who became the department's first black chief in 2015, is handling these cases.

"What does it take for white officers to be held accountable for mistreating minorities?" Fitchett wrote. "What I have witnessed (I never thought I’d say this) is worse than what occurred under Halstead. Instead of improving internal/external race relations, you have made them worse."

Fitchett, who was the first president of the city's Black Police Officers' Association, wonders why the chief has been quick to dismiss some of these incidents as not having anything to do with race.

"I can't call it racism," Fitzgerald said in December, 2016, when asked about the recorded incident in which Officer William Martin became physical with mother Jacqueline Craig and her children. "What I can say [is] I noticed in the video the officer was rude."

The department gave this statement Friday in response to Fitchett’s letter:

"The Chief is well aware of this letter that is filled with opinion and conjecture from a retired officer. These separate incidents were reviewed by each involved officer's chain of command following thorough Internal Affairs investigations. The Chief respects this retired officer's right to voice his opinion but will not to respond to the letter."

The Fort Worth Police Officer's Association, as well as Mayor Betsy Price, didn't give comment either. At the time this article was written, the head of the Black Police Officer's Association had not responded.

As for Fitchett, he fears the damage has been done, but wants his letter to be the voice for those who might not be able to speak out.

"I don't see how this could be rectified or remedied, I don't," Fitchett said.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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