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Fort Worth Names Insider As New Police Chief: Neil Noakes, A 20-Year Veteran

Portrait of Neil Noakes in uniform, in front of American flag.
City of Fort Worth
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Neil Noakes

This is Noakes’ 21st year with the department. He started as an officer in the North Patrol Division and later became that division’s commander, before his promotion to deputy chief in 2019.

City officials announced today Neil Noakes will be Fort Worth's new police chief effective immediately.

Noakes has been with the department for over two decades and helped establish its VIP FW program that works with former gang members to prevent gang violence.

The search for a department head has been ongoing since current chief, Ed Kraus, announced his retirement in July. He started as acting chief in 2019, following the firing of his predecessor, Joel Fitzgerald.

Much of Kraus' tenure has been defined by the killing of Atatiana Jefferson, as well as his department’s response to this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.

Noakes spoke about how he would hold officers accountable for being disrespectful or for using excessive force at a candidate forum earlier in January. He cited improper and impractical training as a major issue that leads to officers using unnecessary and inappropriate violence.

In a screengrab, Fort Worth Deputy Chief Neil Noakes sits at a table and speaks into a microphone.
City of Fort Worth
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Deputy Chief Neil Noakes was one of two internal candidates for the job of Fort Worth police chief. The six finalists addressed the public for the first time at a forum on January 14, 2021.

In a report commissioned by the city, a panel of outside experts found that the Fort Worth Police Department’s policies and training don’t always translate to the field.

“That’s a problem,” Noakes said at the candidate forum. “That's something Chief Kraus has addressed, and that’s something we will continue to address.”

Noakes added that rudeness is linked to excessive force, because it can make situations more tense. He said the department has dealt with this in the past by being proactive — they identified a rude officer, sent him back to training and partnered him with a more experienced officer, with no further incidents.

He beat out five other candidates for the position, including Julie A. Swearingin, an assistant chief in the Fort Worth Police Department, Carrollton's police chief and officers from Houston, Austin and Las Vegas.

In his application for the position, Noakes said he believes the department is in need of "innovative leadership" and should focus on engaging the community it serves.

"We must recognize that the opportunity to change the course of history is now," he said. "Officers must be inspired to reject the notion that societal issues are not our problem."

Read Neil Noakes' resume and cover letter he submitted as part of the application process.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org or Gabrielle Jones at gjones@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez. You can follow Gabrielle @gabrielleNjones.

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Corrected: January 25, 2021 at 3:25 PM CST
A previous version of this story misstated the number of finalist for Fort Worth Police Chief. There were six finalists, including Neil Noakes.