Fort Worth police chief fires his former chief of staff

Posted Thursday, May. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH Paul Henderson, former chief of staff for Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead, was fired Thursday following an internal affairs investigation into his December arrest on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

“I’ll be filing Paul’s indefinite suspension appeal tomorrow,” said Craig Driskell, his attorney with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

Henderson, who had already been demoted from major to captain and stripped of his chief of staff position shortly after his Dec. 1 arrest, was informed of the chief’s decision during a meeting Thursday afternoon.

“As chief, I will not tolerate egregious misconduct from any employee, especially from an executive in my administration,” Halstead said Thursday.

Halstead said the internal investigation sustained allegations that Henderson violated general and/or special orders when he drove under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, became intoxicated while off-duty, and brought unjustified, unfavorable criticism on himself and the department by his arrest.

“Public trust is the foundation of public safety,” Halstead said. “The chief of police is expected to hold all employees accountable for their actions, on or off duty, regardless of rank, tenure, or position. This is the result of our investigation.”

Henderson’s attorney said he believes Halstead’s decision contradicts statements the chief had made at a Jan. 3 press conference.

At the press conference, which followed the latest in a string of arrests of Fort Worth officers accused of DWI, Halstead announced that - beginning that day - he would automatically fire any officer subsequently arrested for DWI if internal affairs investigators sustained the allegation.

He said he also would no longer wait for a drunken-driving case to make its way through the criminal justice system before dishing out his discipline.

For legal reasons, Halstead said, officers whose punishment was already pending, which included Henderson, would still be handled case by case.

“Paul believes in holding people accountable to their word,” Driskell said. “The Chief’s decision to fire Paul prior to the outcome of the pending DWI case is a departure from the Chief’s message during a January 2013 press conference.”

Henderson had been on leave since his arrest by a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper in Parker County.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Trooper Daniel Walker had pulled Henderson’s 2004 black BMW over after seeing the vehicle swerve from the right into the center lane on Interstate 30 at 1:49 a.m.

The trooper said he could smell alcohol inside the car and noted Henderson “had red glassy bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.”

Henderson told the trooper he had been texting while driving and initially denied having anything to drink, the affidavit states.

The affidavit states, however, that Henderson “performed poorly” on a standardized field sobriety test and the trooper could smell an alcoholic beverage on his breath.

“Henderson admitted he did have a couple of drinks,” Walker said in the affidavit.

Though Henderson initially agreed to provide a breath sample, the trooper instead requested a blood sample after Henderson told him “he was also on medication mixed with alcohol he had drank.”

Henderson refused the blood sample, the affidavit states. Ultimately, he provided neither a breath nor blood sample, court documents states.

The DWI charge was still pending Thursday, Parker County court records show.

“Paul believes in the judicial process and whatever the outcome of the criminal case, he will accept the results,” Driskell said.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd

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