Fired Fort Worth Police Chief Had 'Inability To Effectively Lead,' Says Termination Letter
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald had shown an "increasing lack of good judgment," a city executive wrote in a termination letter sent to KERA on Monday.
Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa also describes Fitzgerald as making decisions more focused on his own best interests.
"Similarly, on multiple occasions your inability to build relationships with other department directors and employees has been a topic of our conversations and evaluations," the letter from Chapa reads.
"Additional examples of your inability to effectively lead the Police Department include failing to manage the Police Department budget and going well over the authorized budget in multiple years."
Fitzgerald told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he was notified Monday by City Manager David Cooke and had no advanced warning. He said the reason given was “nothing that is in any way valid.”
“I’m not going to get into it,” Fitzgerald told the newspaper. “I’m just going to make sure I get an attorney involved and just do things the right way.”
Monday's termination follows a rocky relationship Fitzgerald's had with city management and with the police union.
Cooke told reporters Monday the D.C. incident played a part in the decision to fire him.
"Is this action today based on the recent incident in Washington, D.C.? As an isolated incident, no. As a culmination of items, yes,” Cooke said. “There's certainly several versions of what happened in Washington, D.C. and the extent of how heated the incident was or wasn't. Nonetheless, there was an incident, and it brings into question judgment and leadership.”
Deputy Chief Ed Kraus has been named interim police chief.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said in a tweet Monday evening, "I am in full support of our City Manager’s decision to terminate Joel Fitzgerald as chief of police." She said Fort Worth residents deserve a chief who's "committed to building relationships in all communities" and that officers deserve a leader who will be active and engaged.
"Our citizens deserve a police chief who is committed to building relationships in all communities, by furthering trust & transparency. Our police officers, who risk their lives daily for our community, deserve a leader who will be present, active, & engaged.” – Mayor Betsy (2/2)— Betsy Price (@MayorBetsyPrice) May 20, 2019
Fitzgerald's firing, effective immediately, does not include severance.
Read the termination letter:
KERA's Christopher Connelly and Galilee Abdullah contributed to this report.