Fort Worth Mayoral Candidates Share Plans For The Police Department
Fort Worth has been grappling with issues in its police department for years. The city's new mayor — either Mattie Parker or Deborah Peoples — will inherit those struggles. They indicated how they would handle them at the latest mayoral forum.
Deborah Peoples, the outgoing chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, and Mattie Parker, a nonprofit CEO and former chief of staff to Fort Worth’s mayor and City Council, are the final two candidates out of an initially crowded field.
They met for a forum on Tuesday night, hosted by the civic engagement nonprofit SteerFW, to discuss their thoughts about what's going on at the state legislature.
The conversation quickly turned to policing, which has been a priority this session. Moderator Evan Smith, CEO of The Texas Tribune, pointed out that the debate was taking place on the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.
Smith asked the candidates if they would support an end to qualified immunity, which protects police officers from lawsuits. As Houston Public Media reports, a proposal to end it went nowhere in the legislature.
Peoples said she would have liked to get rid of qualified immunity.
"My brother was a policeman, but if he did something and he was wrong, like kneeling on George Floyd's neck for nine minutes and killing somebody, then I'd tell you, I love you brother, I will come and visit you in the jail," she said. "I'll put something on your books, but you gotta go."
Parker said ending qualified immunity would only hurt police morale.
“I think you would see a mass exodus from those that are willing to be police officers,” she said.
Both candidates agreed that there is a problem when it comes to race and policing in the city, but they disagreed on the best way to handle it.
Parker said she plans to listen to the professionals the city already has in place, like Police Chief Neil Noakes, who was promoted to the top job in January.
“We currently have a police chief that is phenomenal, and leading with a servant's heart,” Parker said. “I think you need to watch and wait and see how Neil will lead this department to a new direction."
Parker also pointed to the city’s progress since the viral arrest of Jacqueline Craig, a Black woman who called Fort Worth police for help and ended up arrested herself. After the incident, the city convened the Task Force on Race and Culture and hired Kim Neal, the city’s first-ever police oversight monitor.
But Peoples said it’s not enough. She wants a citizen's board that allows regular people to be involved in police oversight, too. It was a suggestion from the Task Force on Race and Culture that has yet to materialize.
Whoever wins the election will take office before the murder trial of Aaron Dean, which is tentatively scheduled for August.
Dean is a white former police officer who shot and killed a Black woman named Atatiana Jefferson in her Fort Worth home in 2019.
Early voting is underway until Tuesday, with the exception of Memorial Day. The final day to vote is June 5. Find early voting hours and locations here.
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