Officials in Fort Worth, Texas, said Friday that they were disturbed and outraged by the video of a white police officer arresting a black woman and her two daughters after she called police to report an assault on her son.
The now viral video of Wednesday’s incident was posted to Facebook, causing many to accuse the officer of racism, and leading to a protest Thursday night in downtown Fort Worth.
At a news conference Friday, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald acknowledged that the officer’s behavior was rude, but said, “I can’t call [the incident] racism,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
“What I can say is that I noticed in the video that the officer was rude,” Fitzgerald said. “And there is a difference between rude and racist.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who described the video as an “isolated incident,” said, “We do have concerns about some of the actions seen on the video.” She explained that the incident is being fully investigated by police and thanked Fort Worth residents for remaining calm.
Fitzgerald said that the Fort Worth community has been tremendous since Wednesday’s incident and that several of the protesters he has spoken to “have every confidence in the world that we will handle this properly.”
Texas House Member Nicole Collier said she was outraged by what she saw in the video.
“Instead of actually trying to calm the situation,” Collier said, “this police officer engaged in behavior that was not in line with the standard of conduct with the Fort Worth Police Department.”
As previously reported on The Root, Jacqueline Craig, a 46-year-old black woman, called police after her son reported being choked by a white neighbor. The call was answered by a white, as yet unidentified police officer, and the exchange was captured on video.
After the police officer has what appears to be a quiet exchange with the attacker, he strolls over to Craig and asks condescendingly, “What’s going on with you?”
Craig tells him that the neighbor choked her son for allegedly throwing a piece of paper on the ground and not picking it up when the neighbor asked him to. In response to Craig’s distress, the police officer asks, “Why don’t you teach your son not to litter?”
“He can’t prove to me that my son did or didn’t, but it doesn’t matter,” Craig says. “That doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”
To which the officer responds, “Why not?”
Craig and her 19-year-old daughter were arrested by the officer, who has since been put on restricted duty pending an investigation. Her 15-year-old daughter was detained.
Fitzgerald said Friday that investigating the possible assault of a child should have been the officer’s priority when he arrived on the scene. He added that “99 percent of our officers” would have handled the situation differently.
Police interviewed witnesses Friday in the boy’s neighborhood and continued to investigate the assault claim, Fitzgerald said.
Police spokesman Marc Povero said Friday that the Facebook video starts about two minutes after the officer arrived, the Star-Telegram reports. Two officers were dispatched to the scene, but one arrived more quickly than the other, and he was the only one on the scene during the incident.
Povero said that the officer’s body camera was active from the time he arrived, but Fitzgerald said that footage from that camera will not be released to the public because a juvenile was involved.
“As much as the public would like to see every nook and cranny of what we have, it’s sometimes impossible to do so without [dis]respecting the rights of others,” Fitzgerald said.
According to Fort Worth police, Craig was arrested for outstanding traffic tickets in addition to resisting arrest.
Lee Merritt, the attorney representing the Craig family, has asked that the charges against Craig and her daughters be dropped, and the officer fired.
Merritt told the Associated Press that while Craig is not currently considering a federal civil rights lawsuit, Fort Worth police should have to prove that the officer’s actions were not racially motivated, the Star-Telegram reports.
Read more at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.