FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Fort Worth police Chief Joel Fitzgerald was fired Monday following an incident in Washington, D.C. that city officials said was the latest to bring his “judgment and leadership” into question.
City Manager David Cooke announced Fitzgerald’s ouster at an afternoon press conference, saying the recent incident convinced him that Fitzgerald wasn’t the right person to lead police in Texas’ fifth most populous city.
Fitzgerald, who’s been police chief since 2015, confirmed his firing Monday but declined to go into detail about what happened.
“I’m not going to get into it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m just going to make sure I get an attorney involved and just do things the right way.”
Fitzgerald, 48, was kicked out of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas earlier this month after the state-wide union found he was not a member of Fort Worth’s local police union. Days later, the chief got into a heated confrontation with the association’s president while both were attending a National Police Week awards dinner in the nation’s capital, according to the Star-Telegram. Fitzgerald denied acting unprofessionally.
Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, said city officers are “looking forward to the next era of leadership.”
Cooke said city leaders had been working on “some issues” with Fitzgerald since he dropped a contentious bid to leave Texas to lead the police department in Baltimore.
Baltimore’s then mayor named Fitzgerald as her nominee to be the city’s police commissioner in November. But he abruptly withdrew from consideration after The Baltimore Sun reported that Fitzgerald’s resume overstated some achievements from his tenure in Fort Worth.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she supported Fitzgerald’s firing. Residents deserve a chief “committed to building relationships in all communities,” she said, and police “deserve a leader who will be present, active, and engaged.”
Cooke said Executive Assistant Chief Edwin Kraus will lead Fort Worth police until a new chief is hired. There is no timeline for filling the job, he said.