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Fort Worth police chief to step down in January

Almost six years after taking the reins of the Fort Worth Police Department, Chief Jeff Halstead will announce Tuesday that he will be stepping down in January, a source said.

Halstead did not respond to messages but a source said Halstead will retire effective Jan. 9.


Interactive: Halstead’s time in Fort Worth


Another source close to the chief told the Star-Telegram Monday that Halstead is choosing to retire to begin a consulting business.

“The chief is not resigning under pressure,” the source said. “He is starting his own consulting firm and remaining in Fort Worth.”

Secretary of State records show that Halstead registered his company, The Halstead Group LLC, on July 15.

The decision comes three months after an outside investigation into complaints filed by three black officers against the police department found no hard evidence of racial discrimination, but concluded that there was instances of hostile and harassing behavior that went unstopped.

The report prompted the president of the group representing minority police officers to call for Halstead’s firing, saying he had “irreparably harmed the careers of many minority officers.”

City council and staff, however, gave Halstead a vote of confidence and the issue seemed to have quieted down in recent weeks as Halstead vowed to make needed changes in the department.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price would not confirm Halstead’s pending retirement, but did say that Halstead is expected to make an announcement at the pre-council meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“I talked to the chief and just out of respect for him we are going to give him the opportunity to make his announcement tomorrow,” Price said.

Roy Hudson, the president of the Fort Worth Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, said Monday afternoon that he plans to attend the pre-council meeting to hear the chief’s announcement.

“I’ve heard the rumors but I reserve comment until I actually receive the information in reference to what transpires tomorrow at the meeting,” Hudson said.

Rick Van Houten, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association, declined to comment Monday afternoon.

Halstead became police chief in December 2008, replacing Ralph Mendoza, who retired. Halstead had previously worked as a commander with the Phoenix Police Department.

A tough start

Halstead was quickly thrown into the fire in Fort Worth.

In April 2009, Michael Jacobs, 18, died shortly after being shocked twice with a Taser by officer Stephanie Phillips. Halstead said Phillips violated police department protocol by deploying her Taser for longer than the five second round — the first trigger pull lasted 49 seconds. A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Phillps in Jacobs’ death, which was ruled a homicide.

Following the Taser incident came the controversial bar check at the Rainbow Lounge, a gay bar, a series of DWI arrests of officers and and the arrests and subsequent dismissal of charges against officers accused in an overtime scandal.

Last year, he was criticized for his handling of a police shooting of an armed homeowner in the Woodhaven neighborhood. Jerry Waller, 72, was shot to death after officers responded to the wrong address on a burglary call. A grand jury declined to indict the officer, R.A. “Alex Hoeppner, officially ending the criminal investigation in highly-publicized shooting that Halstead said was justified.

Addressing issues

While dealing with the controversies, Halstead was also credited for being pro-active in many situations.

Following the death of Jacobs, Halstead successfully lobbied Taser International to create a solution to the extended-deployment issue.

After the Rainbow Lounge incident, Halstead created a liaison to the gay community and implemented diversity and multicultural training for recruits and employees.

After an officer was involved in a DWI-fatality crash, Halstead created an alcohol awareness program for all police officers and employees.

And not long after the Waller shooting, Halstead successfully pushed for the purchase of body cameras for officers, making the department one of the largest users of Axon flex cameras in the country. Halstead said such cameras would increase transparency, ensuring that officers decisions and activities were fair and within policy.

Halstead also faced a steady barrage of budget cuts as Fort Worth’s population continued to boom. Just last week, a report suggested that the police department needed to add 59 patrol officers.

Staff writer Caty Hirst contributed to this report, which includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

HALSTEAD’S TIME IN FORT WORTH

A look at some of the key moments during Jeff Halstead’s tenure as police chief in Fort Worth.

Monday - Retirement confirmed

Sources confirm that Halstead will retire, effective in January.

Nov. 4 - More officers needed

A nonprofit report says that the Fort Worth Police Department needs to add 59 patrol officers and suggests that they be pulled from the neighborhood police program. While Halstead agreed that the department is understaffed, he rejected the recommendation on how to add patrol officers.

September 2014 — A vote of confidence

City staff and council members give Halstead a vote of confidence following an outside investigation into grievances filed by three black police officers. Halstead’s 3-E Action Plan — Equality, Equity for Everyone — to correct problems cited in the report was unveiled.

August 2014 — Calls for resignation

An outside investigation into complaints filed against the Fort Worth Police Department found no hard evidence of racial discrimination as three black officers had alleged, but concluded that there were instances of hostile and harassing behavior that went unstopped by department leaders. Sgt. Roy Hudson, president of the Fort Worth Black Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, called for Halstead to resign, saying he has “irreparably harmed the careers of many minority officers.”

June 27, 2014 — A sobering milestone

The Fort Worth Police Department marked one year without an officer being arrested for driving under the influence. The department had been plagued with alcohol-related problems in recent years, including the December 2012 arrest of Halstead’s chief of staff.

May 2013 — Homeowner shot and killed

A 72-year-old armed Woodhaven man was shot and killed in his garage by a Fort Worth police officer who had gone to the wrong address responding to a burglary call. A grand jury declined to indict the officer, R.A. “Alex Hoeppner, officially ending the criminal investigation in highly-publicized shooting of Jerry Waller.

February 2013 — Building for the future

Construction begins on a $97.5 million police and fire training center and headquarters in south Fort Worth.

October 2012 — Training for dog encounters

The shooting of a dog by a police officer in May led Halstead to create a training program to help officers tell the difference between a dog that is barking out of excitement and one that is sure to attack.

September 2011 — Racial unrest

Tired of what they described as pervasive “bullying, intimidating and threatening” of minorities by Fort Worth police officers, several minority leaders call on Halstead to resign. The call for his resignation came shortly before the announcement that a Tarrant County grand jury had declined to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of a black motorist.

March 2010 — Traffic ticket scandal

An investigation begins that would eventually lead to the indictments of eight Fort Worth police officers accused of falsifying traffic citations to collect thousands of dollars in overtime pay. Halstead ultimately fired six officers while another three resign. In January 2014, however, prosecutors announce they’ve dismissed criminal charges against the officer after new information had “been revealed that affected the viability of the prosecution.”

December 2009 — Fatal DWI crash

Police officer Jesus Cisneros, after a night of drinking while off duty, crashed his city-owned SUV into a car driven by a young mother, Sonja Baker, killing her. He pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter and is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Halstead created an alcohol awareness program for all police employees and restructured the punishment policy for public intoxication and DWI arrests and convictions.

June 2009 — Rainbow Lounge incident

Fort Worth police officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission conducted a bar check at the Rainbow Lounge, a gay bar, which left patron Chad Gibson hospitalized with a head injury. The incident led to accusations of police brutality and quickly became a story of national interest. In November 2009, Halstead announced the results of an internal investigation, which resulted in three officers receiving one- to three-day suspensions. The city paid settlements of $400,000 and $40,000 to the two men injured.

April 2009 — Taser death

Just three months after Halstead was hired, Michael Jacobs, 18, died shortly after being shocked twice with a Taser by officer Stephanie Phillips. Halstead said Phillips violated police department protocol by deploying her Taser for longer than the five second round — the first trigger pull lasted 49 seconds. A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict Phillps in Jacobs’ death, which was ruled a homicide.

December 2008 — A new chief in town

Halstead was hired to replace Ralph Mendoza, who retired.

Source: Star-Telegram archives

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