DALLAS – A white Texas police officer was suspended without pay for 10 days, but will not be dismissed, after an incident where he was caught on video wrestling with a black woman and her daughter on the ground, Fort Worth police chief Joel Fitzgerald announced Monday.
Fitzgerald said the officer, identified by department officials as William Martin, violated the policy, is sorry for his behaviour and is eager to resume active duty at the end of the suspension. He said that he has asked Martin, who will also be required to undergo additional training, to go back in the same community, when the suspension ends “to repair the relationships.”
“We are not punishing bad behavior … People make mistakes. We have the levels of the errors that every police officer makes,” Fitzgerald said. “Some things deserve punishment, others do not. Some deserve termination, and some are not.”
The incident on Dec. 21 happened after Jacqueline Craig complained that a neighbor suffocated her 7-year-old son for allegedly littering in his garden. One of her daughters to be filmed in the interactions between Craig and Martin.
In the video, Martin questions why Craig had not taught her son not to litter, and later asks why the neighbor should not put his hands on her son. One of Craig’s daughters try to push her mother away from Martin, but the officer forces Craig and the daughter on the ground. He pushes a stun gun in Craig’s back and later points on the daughter tells her to stay behind.
He was arrested, Craig, and her daughters on charges for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
The disciplinary report will be presented to the Civil Service Commission, said Martin violated department policy by using excessive violence and failing to thoroughly investigate. Other findings included neglect of duty, is discourteous to the public and conduct prejudicial to the good order.
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“Officer Martin violated state and departmental rules and policies by the use of excessive violence, disrespectful, and not thoroughly investigate a criminal offense,” Fitzgerald writes in the letter.
Terry S. Daffron, a lawyer with Martin, said he has appealed the suspension.
“It is clear, we do not agree with the findings in the Chief’ s disciplinary letter,” she wrote in a statement via e-mail. “We look forward to a fair, neutral, and impartial hearing process, free of political pressure and influence, where Officer Martin finally get a ‘voice’ and all the evidence will be considered by the arbitrator.”
Craig’s lawyer had demanded that Martin be fired and criminally charged, that all charges against the Craig family to be dropped and that the neighbor be charged with assaulting her son. The lawyer of S. Lee Merritt, did not immediately return a call Monday seeking comment, but he posted a video statement to Facebook Monday afternoon, calling the suspension “untenable” and describing it as a holiday.
“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 that some members of 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 prosecution to the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.
A spokeswoman for the public prosecutor said that the office will send the whole incident file including the research department of a grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against one of the parties involved.
“The report on the Craigs, the officer and the neighbors come together for the grand jury,” spokeswoman Sam Jordan said. “They could find to press charges against all or no one.”
Jordan said that the office, no recommendations to the grand jury about the costs for each of the parties. She said: there is no fixed date, but the grand jury, that was exactly it will sit, will hear the case in the next few months.”
The video was millions of times viewed on Facebook, and letters and e-mails his roles in the department and the officials of the city asked that Martin be fired.