Conduct policy questioned after Arlington police chief is accused of using racial slur

An officer who filed a complaint against Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson for allegedly using a racial slur during a meeting said he hopes the complaint will lead to a policy change.

The complaint was filed by Chris Ceballos, president of the Arlington Municipal Patrolman Association. He told the Star-Telegram on Wednesday that the n-word was said by Johnson as he recounted a story in November about a black woman who had the slur written on her car.

Ceballos said he made the complaint to force a change in department policy regarding employee conduct.

The policy states: “The subjective intent of the speaker or actor is not relevant in the determination of whether the standard of conduct is violated.”

The policy also states that an employee’s conduct at all times — off the job or not — should reflect favorably on the employee and the city.

“Why he said it doesn’t matter,” Ceballos said.

A request emailed to the department seeking comment from Johnson was returned by spokesman Lt. Chris Cook, who wrote that the chief has been a long-term advocate and leader for the safeguarding and protection of civil rights.

“In a police meeting challenging the department command staff to vigorously work and solve hate crimes, he shared the details of a hate crime that had a profound impact on him, the victim, and the community,” the statement read. “The details were facts in a criminal case and are not reflective of his personal views.”

The complaint, citing “rumors,” stated that some of the employees who attended the meeting were offended by Johnson’s comment.

So on Nov. 15, Johnson held a second meeting and apologized for using the slur, the complaint says.

In his complaint, Ceballos said the context in which Johnson used the word was unknown. He said he also filed the complaint to hold the chief accountable. He points to a June 5 incident when a patrol officer was disciplined for violating the same policy.

The city’s investigation into the complaint, which was filed at the end of March, is ongoing, said city spokeswoman Susan Schrock.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.