Police Capt. Abdul Pridgen, the former assistant chief accused of leaking an officer’s bodycam video and personnel file in the Jacqueline Craig arrest, should not be further demoted to sergeant, the Civil Service Commission ruled Thursday, rejecting Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald’s recommended discipline.
The decision — the result of one of the two commission members not seconding a motion to find probable cause against Pridgen — surprised Fitzgerald, who attended the meeting.
The commission is typically a three-person panel. But several weeks ago, Vice Chairman Joel Aguilar Villanueva resigned from his post, leaving only Chairman Ricky Torlincasi and member Nommo Donald to preside over Thursday’s meeting.
After about 30 minutes in executive session, Torlincasi moved to find probable cause against Pridgen and proceed with a hearing to determine whether he should be demoted. Donald, however, did not second the motion, so the issue was dropped and the meeting adjourned.
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According to Civil Service Commission rules, two members qualify as a quorum to conduct meetings and hearings.
“We’re talking to [city attorneys] now and we’re going to see what options we have,” Fitzgerald said. “We have civil service rules and if the civil service hearing was conducted by two people and that was legal, then we have to go by their determination, unless there is some other legal precedent that exists that says otherwise.”
The personnel file and bodycam video at issue were those of officer William Martin, whose questionable behavior and arrests of Fort Worth resident Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters Dec. 21 have led to widespread criticism of him and the Police Department. Martin is white and the women are black.
Lee Merritt, one of Craig’s attorneys, provided the documents and bodycam video of the arrests to The Associated Press. He said at the time he received the footage from a “trusted source.”
In May, Fitzgerald demoted Pridgen and Deputy Chief Vance Keyes to captain, accusing them of the leaks. The demotions to captain were automatic, since assistant chief and deputy chief are appointed positions.
But Fitzgerald’s decision to further demote Pridgen to sergeant had to be approved by the Civil Service Commission.
Fitzgerald said evidence from the internal investigation showed that Martin’s confidential files were downloaded on Jan. 18 to an external storage device connected to Pridgen’s computer and that Keyes was in Pridgen’s office when that happened.
The same files, Fitzgerald said, were uploaded to a public website “by someone outside of the Police Department.”
“Both of these men were in the chain of command that oversees the internal affairs section and had a duty to protect those sensitive files,” Fitzgerald said. “Every Fort Worth police officer has an obligation to be truthful and trustworthy.”
Fitzgerald said neither Pridgen nor Keyes fully cooperated during the internal investigation.
“Both of these men knew more than they disclosed to investigators,” Fitzgerald said.
Terry Daffron — the attorney representing Martin, who had a hearing in June appealing his 10-day suspension in the arrest incident — said Thursday that there was “more than enough evidence to support probable cause for [Pridgen’s] demotion.”
Daffron said she had “serious concerns” about how the Civil Service Commission conducted Thursday’s meeting.
“No one was notified of the resignation and no one was notified there wasn’t going to be three members here,” Daffron said. “If that had been known, I think the city would have requested a continuance.”
Pridgen did not attend the meeting Thursday.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.