Fort Worth chief vows to fire officers caught driving drunk

Posted Thursday, Jan. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- One day after another of his officers was arrested for drunken driving, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead said Thursday that any officer whose DWI accusation is "sustained" by internal affairs will be fired.

"I'm not going to wait until your criminal case goes through ... proceedings," he said.

Halstead made his announcement Thursday morning at a news conference where he was flanked by relatives who have lost loved ones to drunken drivers.

Previously, Halstead had pledged to decide on a case-by-case basis how to handle alcohol-involved cases. Officers convicted of DWI faced anywhere from a 15-day suspension to termination.

The change in policy comes after the Wednesday arrest of officer Nicolas Ramirez on suspicion of DWI and less than a month after Halstead's chief of staff, Maj. Paul Henderson, was arrested on a DWI charge in Parker County.

"We only made it through one day in 2013" before an officer broke the sacred bond not to shame his colleagues, Halstead said. "I have never been so frustrated."

Keller police say Ramirez, who works as a DWI enforcement officer, was weaving in and out of his lane on Texas 114 in Westlake and was pulled over. The officer failed a field sobriety test and a breath test later indicated his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit of 0.08, police said.

Halstead said the department has made strides in dealing with alcohol-related issues in the past few years, but after Henderson's arrest, it became clear that all officers were not getting the message.

Henderson, the chief's right-hand man, was quickly demoted to captain and stripped of his chief of staff position. He is now working in support.

Standing with Halstead on Thursday was Karen Freeto, the widow of Dwayne Freeto, a Fort Worth police officer who was killed by a drunken driver on Dec. 17, 2006. Also attending was Stella Lopez, the mother of Sonia Baker, who was killed in 2009 when officer Jesus Cisneros, after a night of drinking with colleagues, crashed his city-owned vehicle into her vehicle.

Cisneros is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Since 2008, 14 officers have been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

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