Fort Worth chief demotes chief of staff following arrest

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 04, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH — Paul Henderson, former chief of staff for Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead, has been demoted to captain, will see a pay cut and will no longer have supervisory responsibilities following his arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

“Effective immediately, I will reclassify Paul Henderson to the rank of captain and remove him from the chief’s office,” Halstead said during a news conference Tuesday. “He will have no oversight of the current programs or projects when he was assigned as chief of staff for my administration.”

The current contract with the Fort Worth Police Officers Association gives the chief the authority to make the change.

As a major with the department, Henderson made $125,736. Fort Worth police captains are paid $114,254, according to a public employees’ database compiled by the Texas Tribune.

Henderson, 45, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in Parker County.

Halstead immediately ordered an internal affairs investigation and assigned Deputy Chief Rhonda Robertson to oversee that inquiry. Robertson will also be involved in future plans for the joint Police and Fire Training Facility that were part of Henderson’s previous responsibilities.

According to a probable cause affidavit released Tuesday. Department of Public Safety Trooper Daniel Walker saw Henderson’s 2004 black BMW swerving from the right into the center lane on Interstate 30 at 1:49 a.m. Walker said he pulled over the vehicle and could smell alcohol inside the car.

“Henderson had red glassy bloodshot eyes and slurred speech,” Walker said in the affidavit. “Henderson stated he was texting while driving. I asked Henderson if he had anything to drink and he stated no.”

The trooper then had Henderson exit the car to perform a standardized field sobriety test and said he “performed poorly,” according to the affidavit.

“While talking with Henderson I could smell a alcoholic beverage coming from his breath as he spoke,” Walker said. “Henderson admitted he did have a couple of drinks.”

Henderson provided a breath sample and told the trooper “he was also on medication mixed with alcohol he had drank.” But Henderson refused to provide a blood sample.

Following his arrest, Henderson was placed on detached duty status but will return to work Saturday in the support bureau of the Community Programs Division.

“He will only work in an administrative capacity for the duration of the internal investigation,” Halstead said. “Once the internal investigation is complete, I will then address any and all policy violations alleged to have occurred. If formal discipline is recommended, it will be administered at that time.”

Disciplinary action for a DWI conviction could range from a 15-day suspension to termination.

Halstead said he will not replace Henderson and will consider doing away with the chief of staff title and placing a captain in that position. He is also considering the creation of a civilian director of marketing and communications.

Halstead has tried to address issues such as DWIs through a mandated alcohol awareness training program for all officers.

Since 2008, there have been 18 DWI arrests of Fort Worth police officers. So far in 2012, there have been two DWI arrests, including Henderson’s case on Saturday.

Henderson has been quoted on more than one occasion in the Star-Telegram when officers have been arrested for DWI or public intoxication.

In June 2010, following the arrest of an officer for public intoxication, Henderson said: “We’ve gone above and beyond in an attempt to educate our employees and to send the message that the residents of Fort Worth, the Police Department and specifically Chief Halstead are not going to tolerate this destructive behavior.”

Halstead said Tuesday that he has worked hard to address employee misconduct in the department.

“Let me make clear that accountability starts at the top,” Halstead said. “I have proven my dedication to this statement by addressing many forms of employee misconduct, both criminal and administrative, from the very serious misconduct requiring prison time to minor violations requiring more training.”

On Monday, Halstead also sent an email to employees of the Fort Worth Police Department, where he said Henderson’s arrest will “complicate many matters” but said it would have no impact on his decision making.

The email sent by Halstead had a subject line of “Executive Misconduct.”

“Major Henderson was assigned as our department’s ‘Chief of Staff’ and reported directly to me,” Halstead said in the email. “This arrest will complicate many matters that were on-going projects and assignments in this office BUT, his position, role, and/or relationship with the Chief of Police have absolutely no bearing on my decisions related to executive misconduct.”

Bill Hanna, (817) -390

Twitter: @fwhanna

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