FORT WORTH, Texas — Neil Noakes officially became the 27th leader of the Fort Worth Police Department Tuesday night, taking his oath as chief alongside his family after council members voted to confirm his hiring.
Noakes has been at the head of the department for about a week, he told WFAA. But Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony made it official.
Noakes is taking over the department from former Chief Ed Kraus, who is retiring. He served a short stint as chief, succeeding then Chief Joel Fitzgerald who was fired in May of 2019,
The city announced that Noakes would become chief last Monday. He was one of six finalists vying for the job.
Noakes is getting a promotion in a sense. He was recently a deputy chief for the department and has served at least 20 years with Fort Worth police.
He also spent his college years in Fort Worth, graduating from Texas Christian University.
After Noakes was sworn in, he addressed the crowd, thanking his family and the community.
"Thank you for believing in me and having faith in me to get the job done," Noakes said.
"Without the officers of the Fort Worth Police Department, I would not be here. Here's my pledge: I will be a servant leader. I'm not rising in the ranks to have more people under me...it's to serve more."
Noakes is inheriting many issues that he should know about all too well in the department.
First and foremost, he's facing growing violent crime. In 2020, there were 112 homicides recorded in Fort Worth, which was the most since 1994.
Noakes said that one of the goals he wants to achieve in his first six months as chief is to get that number down.
He said he plans to do that with the community's help.
"It's unacceptable. We're focusing all of our resources in areas where we need to. We go into those areas with a spirit of cooperation and collaboration and work with communities to understand the problems and address them," Noakes said.
Before Noakes got the job, he was at a forum alongside those six finalists answering inquiries from the public.
He faced tough questions regarding culture in the department and if anything would change under his watch.
The department has been criticized for not hiring more diversely and for being connected to high-profile use of force incidents involving those in Black and brown communities.
In 2019, the city fell underneath a national microscope when Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was shot in her own home by former officer Aaron Dean.
The call began as a welfare check after a neighbor saw Jefferson's door open.
She was inside babysitting a relative. However, Dean and another officer went around the house and into the backyard without announcing their presence.
When Jefferson came to a window to see who was in her yard, she was shot, police body camera footage showed.
At the forum, Noakes said the following regarding public trust: "We're not going to arrest our way out of crime. We need to show our communities our heart, commitment, and to do that, and we need to show up."
Noakes continued that thread on Tuesday night, saying he's committed to transparency.
"One of the best predictors for the success of a relationship is trust, and the relationship we want to have with the community needs to be built on trust. To be able to have that, we have to be transparent," Noakes said.
In Noakes' first week on the job, he placed an officer within the department on restricted duty--meaning he took away the officer's police powers, badge, and gun.
The reason revolved around a racially insensitive social media post that a fellow officer reported.
The officer will remain on restricted duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation.