Ft Worth, TX — Two of the Fort Worth Police Department’s highest ranking men in blue were demoted this month for being good cops. The officers now stand accused of the ‘crimes’ of leaking body camera footage and the personnel file belonging to one of their own, Officer William A. Martin.
As The Free Thought Project reported, leaked body camera footage showed Martin responded to a call in December 2016, where a black Ft. Worth woman had called 911 alleging her white neighbor had put his hands on her son and choking him.
Instead of arresting the man for assaulting the boy, Martin ended up violently arresting the mother, Jacqueline Craig, and two of her daughters, in what many considered was a racially motivated miscarriage of justice.
For his actions, Martin was suspended for 10 days without pay but not fired, as many critics contended should have been his fate. The incident was seen by many, all across the country, as an example of badge abuse directed at Ft. Worth’ African American community.
Chief Joel Fitzgerald announced the demotions at a press conference May 19. Deputy Chiefs Abdul Pridgen and Vance Keyes were given an administrative reassignment to the rank of Captain. Fitzgerald recommended to the Civil Service Commission that Pridgen return to the police department as Sergeant and Keyes was given three days without pay.
An internal investigation was launched in January to determine who leaked the files to an attorney working for Craig, who then uploaded the body camera footage to the Associated Press.
Fitzgerald’s department considered the unauthorized release of Martin’s files a crime. But lawyers for the two demoted officers will likely contend the body camera footage was and is public record, available for anyone who chooses to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain a copy of the files.
For the moment, it’s unclear if the two officers had anything to do with the video footage being released, or if they were attempting to comply with a request from Craig’s lawyers for Martin’s bodycam footage and his personnel file.
Craig and her two daughters were facing charges of interfering with the duties of a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest, and failing to show identification, but all charges were dropped after the videos surfaced.
In a press conference of his own, Keyes fired back at his chief. He told reporters, “I don’t care your title, your position, you don’t get to impune my character in the media and not expect a response…the police department and ultimately the city’s mishandling a response to the incident was akin to trying to extinguish a forest fire with a water pistol.”
Keyes says the fires of racism have ultimately spread wider as a result. Indeed the fallout has blanketed the city of Ft. Worth, all because one officer used the implicit authority of his badge to abuse a concerned black mother over the treatment she alleged her son received at the hands of a neighbor.
Instead of firing the officer at the very moment the department learned of the incident (remember they were in possession of the body camera footage and should have been aware of their officer’s actions), they did nothing until after the footage had been leaked.
Fitzgerald says Internal Affairs has video footage of the computer where the files were downloaded to an external drive, and then uploaded later to an external source, and that the computer used belonged to Pridgen and Keyes was present in Pridgen’s office at the time the files were downloaded. Both men claim they’re innocent.
As CBS DFW reports, at the press conference Monday morning Craig’s attorney, Lee Merritt, talked about the punishment for Officer Martin versus the punishment for the FWPD officers. “Martin amassed a series of felonies on that day from assault, to aggravated assault, to perjury, official corruption, false arrest [and] to each of these he received no criminal investigation, no criminal prosecution. He received a 10-day vacation and he was returned to the force with a scheduled promotion,” Merritt said. “It’s a sad day for the city of Fort Worth. The level of blatant racism and unapologetic hypocrisy should no longer be tolerated and so we take this stand together today.”
As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, whistleblowers are often the target for retaliation, especially if they’re police officers. The Whistleblower Protection Act is not always followed, and whistleblowers sometimes lose not only their jobs but are targeted for harassment.