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'I was just fired': Fort Worth police chief says he's out

Joel Fitzgerald told WFAA on Monday he was fired from his post as Fort Worth's top cop.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Updated at 4:31 p.m. to include statements from city officials. 

Joel Fitzgerald is no longer Fort Worth's top cop. 

"I was just fired," Fitzgerald told WFAA on Monday afternoon. 

Fitzgerald had been chief of the Fort Worth Police Department since October 2015.

Edwin Kraus, the executive assistant police chief, will serve as the interim police chief, city officials said. 

Fitzgerald was often embroiled in controversy during his three-and-a-half years in Fort Worth. 

City Manager David Cooke said there were many factors that led to the decision to fire the chief. 

"I don't know if I could tell you the biggest issue," Cooke said. "I think over time it's a series of items." 

Earlier this year, Fitzgerald withdrew his name from consideration to become the next Baltimore police commissioner. His announcement came two months after a city spokesperson said Fitzgerald had already accepted the job. 

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He recently told WFAA that he planned to stay in the city "for the rest of my career."

Fitzgerald recently came under fire.

The mayor’s office said last week city officials were looking into Fitzgerald’s conduct during an incident at an awards event in Washington, D.C. 

Mayor Betsy Price said Monday she supports the city manager's decision to fire Fitzgerald. 

"These decisions are never made lightly, and I am confident we have reached the right conclusion for both our citizens and our police officers," Price said in a written statement. "Our citizens deserve a police chief who is committed to building relationships in all communities, by furthering trust and transparency." 

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The Fort Worth Police Officers’ Association president said he had to get in between Fitzgerald and the president of the Texas police officer’s union to prevent a confrontation on-stage after a national Top Cop awards event. 

Fitzgerald vehemently denied the account of that story, saying he calmly spoke to the man about quotes he’d given in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article —quotes Fitzgerald said he believed were libelous.

He did not elaborate on his firing Monday but said his cell phone had been cut off. 

According to a memo from Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa, the city said they have lost "confidence that you can be a trusted member of the City's Management team." The letter also addresses that Fitzgerald made decisions that were "more focused on your best interest instead of the best interest of the city."

Chapa addresses the incident at an awards event in Washington, D.C., describing Fitzgerald as pursuing a personal matter instead of focusing on the fallen officers. 

The city claimed Fitzgerald made "negative distractions," despite the expectations to build rapport within the management team and the community. 

In December 2016, a Fort Worth mother name Jackie Craig called 911 to report her son had been choked by a neighbor. 

Officer William Martin responded, and video captured the officer questioning Craig's parenting. That's when the situation became physical, and Craig and her two daughters were arrested.

Fitzgerald was criticized by the African-American community for his handling of the case. He suspended the officer for 10 days but did not fire him. 

The ex-chief's supporters say they had seen unwavering commitment from Fitzgerald in recent months after he opted to stay in Fort Worth instead of going to Baltimore. 

Fitzgerald came to Fort Worth from the Allentown, Penn., police department, where he had been chief for almost two years.

The interim police chief has been with the Fort Worth Police Department since 1992. Kraus most recently oversaw the patrol bureau, city officials said. 

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FortWorti City Manager's Office _ Inter-Office Correspondence Date: May 20, 2019 To: Joel Fitzgerald, Police Chief C From: Jay Chapa, Assistant City ones 7 7 Subject: Termination of Employment Because of your increasing lack of good judgment as the Police Chief of the City of Fort Worth, we have lost confidence that you can be a trusted member of the City's Management team.

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