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Fired Fort Worth Police Chief Had 'Inability To Effectively Lead,' Says Termination Letter

Joel Fitzgerald
Christopher Connelly / KERA News
Joel Fitzgerald

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.

It also comes after Fitzgerald was kicked out of a law enforcement union and after he had a heated public encounter with a union leader in Washington, D.C.

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.”

In January, Fitzgerald withdrew his name from consideration to be Baltimore's Police Commissioner. The Baltimore Sun reported that Fitzgerald's resume overstated his accomplishments

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.

Fitzgerald's firing, effective immediately, does not include severance. 

Read the termination letter:

KERA's Christopher Connelly and Galilee Abdullah contributed to this report.

Anthony Cave reports gun culture as part of a new national reporting collaborative called Guns & America.