CLAUDIA LAUER, Associated Press DALLAS (AP) 01/10 — A white Texas policeman was suspended without pay for 10 days, but will not be fired, after an incident in which he was caught on video wrestling a black woman and her daughter to the ground, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald announced Monday.
Fitzgerald said the officer, identified by department officials as William Martin, violated policy, is sorry for his behavior and is eager to resume active duty at the end of the suspension. He said he has asked Martin, who will also be required to undergo additional training, to go back into the same community when the suspension ends “to repair relationships.”
“We are not sanctioning bad behavior … People make mistakes. We have levels of mistakes that every police officer makes,” Fitzgerald said. “Some things deserve punishment; some do not. Some deserve termination and some do not.”
The incident on Dec. 21 happened after Jacqueline Craig complained that a neighbor choked her 7-year-old son for allegedly littering in his yard. One of her daughters filmed the interactions between Craig and Martin.
In the video, Martin questions why Craig hadn’t taught her son not to litter and later asks why the neighbor shouldn’t have put his hands on her son. One of Craig’s daughters tries to push her mother away from Martin, but the officer forces Craig and the daughter to the ground. He thrusts a stun gun into Craig’s back and later points it at the daughter telling her to stay back.
He arrested Craig and her daughters on charges that include disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The disciplinary report submitted to the Civil Service Commission, says Martin violated department policy by using excessive force and failing to thoroughly investigate. Other findings included neglect of duty, being discourteous to the public and conduct prejudicial to good order.
“Officer Martin violated state and departmental rules and policies by using excessive force, being disrespectful, and failing to thoroughly investigate a criminal offense,” Fitzgerald writes in the letter.
Terry S. Daffron, an attorney representing Martin, said he has appealed the suspension.
“Clearly, we do not agree with the findings contained in the Chief’s disciplinary letter,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “We look forward to a fair, neutral, and impartial hearing process, free from political pressure and influence, one where Officer Martin will finally have a ‘voice’ and all of the evidence will be considered by the arbitrator.”
Craig’s attorney had demanded that Martin be fired and criminally charged, that all charges against the Craig family be dropped and that the neighbor be charged with assaulting her son. The attorney, S. Lee Merritt, did not immediately return a phone call Monday seeking comment, but he posted a video statement to Facebook Monday afternoon calling the suspension “intolerable” and describing it as a vacation.
“They are understandably in disbelief, shocked and upset,” Merritt said of the Craig family. “There are still charges pending against the Craig family.”
Fitzgerald said some members in the police chain of command did not agree with his disciplinary decision, but the ultimate decision was his to make. He referred questions about possible criminal charges to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
A spokeswoman for the district attorney said the office will send the entire incident file including the department’s investigation to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges should be filed against any of the parties involved.
“The report on the Craigs, the officer and the neighbor will all come together before the grand jury,” spokeswoman Sam Jordan said. “They could find to press charges against all or no one.”
Jordan said the office will not make any recommendations to the grand jury about charges for any of the parties. She said there is no set date, but the grand jury that was just seated will hear the case in the “next few months.”
The video was viewed millions of times on Facebook, and letters and emails have been rolling into the department and to city officials asking that Martin be fired.