History was made in Fort Worth, Texas last week when Joel Fitzgerald became the city’s first African-American police chief.
Fitzgerald was sworn in last Tuesday following a troublesome year of racial incidents within the department. Former Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead retired in 2014. Three discrimination lawsuits have been filed against Halstead and the city of Fort Worth, after he allegedly allowed a snowman with a noose around its neck to be hung outside a police building. He also reportedly turned a blind eye when Black officers were taunted during his tenure.
The Dallas Morning News reports:
The officers’ new suit begins like the one filed in December by Delbert Johnson, a 24-year veteran of the force — with black officers being shown “an offensive picture of Sgt. Ann Gates holding a noose around a snowman’s neck with a police cap on his head and a banana in his hand.” The officers say the photo was taken outside the Traffic
Enforcement Section building by another officer — Sgt. Mike Cagle — and that both he and Gates were ultimately investigated by Internal Affairs and admonished for the photo after an investigation.
In addition to Fitzgerald’s new title, the city’s Three E-Plan (Equity, Equality, Everyone) will continue. The program was implemented last year to help with race relations within the department and the community.
Fitzgerald told reporters he’s interested in doing the job to the best of his abilities, regardless of his race.
“Whether I was black, white, red or brown, it’s about doing a good job for the city of Fort Worth,” Fitzgerald said. “You start assigning tasks, you make sure we’re working on goals together,” he said. “Whether you’re meeting with the POA (police officers’ association), the Black Police Officers Association, Latino Police Officers Association, we all have to work together to move this agency forward.”
Mayor Betsy Price says the Philadelphia native was chosen because of his ambition and experience.
“It isn’t that he’s African-American, it’s that he’s the best candidate,” Price said.
Throughout his young days as a cadet, his friends told reporters, he always wanted to be a police chief. His winning streak is also commendable — he was the first African-American police chief in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas, and the first African-American police chief in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
His past positions also include commanding officer in the narcotics unit at the Philadelphia Police Department.
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