Fort Worth

Fort Worth police task force to review all of detective’s child cases

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald Star-Telegram archives

The Police Department is forming a task force to expand the examination of cases worked by a former detective in the Crimes Against Children unit as questions continue to surface about his handling of past cases.

Arrest warrants have been obtained in at least three cases previously assigned to the detective, a source told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday. The warrants were obtained after the cases were reassigned to other detectives who determined there was probable cause for arrests, the source said.

Two other cases have been uncovered in which the suspects were arrested and later released on bail, but their cases were never filed with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office, meaning prosecution was never pursued, the source said.

The source asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the review’s findings.

Sgt. Marc Povero, a Police Department spokesman, confirmed that at least three arrest warrants have been obtained but said he could not discuss specifics. He said the two cases previously not filed with the district attorney’s office have now been filed.

The detective, who has been assigned to noninvestigative duties, remains under investigation by Internal Affairs to determine whether department policy was violated, Povero said.

The Star-Telegram is not naming the detective because he has not been disciplined in the case. His attorney, Terry Daffron, has declined to comment because of the pending investigation.

In this, or any instance where an internal investigation exists, officers receive due process, but if our findings reveal that an officer’s behaviors or practices fall below the minimum standards established for Fort Worth police officers, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action.

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald

Povero said Tuesday that the new task force will begin its work on Monday. It will continue the examination of the detective’s cases dating back to 2002, and will reinvestigate cases when necessary.

The detective’s work first came under scrutiny in mid-March after questions were raised about his handling of a 2014 case.

As a result, Sgt. Wade Walls, the new supervisor of the Crimes Against Children unit, ordered a review of cases handled by the detective in the past two years.

A more in-depth review of the detective’s work during his 14 years in the unit was later ordered. Officials said their review indicated that he had not thoroughly investigated a 2006 report in which two sisters said their father had sexually abused them.

The father was recently arrested after a third sibling said in April that he had abused her, too, since 2006.

“The 2006 case prompted a real concern that there may be cases stemming farther back that were not handled or investigated properly,” Walls said.

Povero said the department found it necessary to form the task force because of the number of cases involved — 1,800 to 2,200.

The chief wants it to be a thorough and comprehensive review and will allow it to continue as long as required.

Sgt. Marc Povero, Fort Worth police spokesman

The task force will initially comprise six detectives with the Crimes Against Children unit and two with the Special Investigations unit. In addition, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office has offered the services of DA investigators if needed, he said.

Povero said Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald has set no deadline for the task force to complete the review.

“The chief wants it to be a thorough and comprehensive review and will allow it to continue as long as required,” he said.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Fitzgerald said: “We intend to review all applicable cases to ensure that [the detective] provided the appropriate level of service. In this, or any instance where an internal investigation exists, officers receive due process, but if our findings reveal that an officer’s behaviors or practices fall below the minimum standards established for Fort Worth police officers, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action.

“Each officer is aware that we are held to ‘a higher standard,’ and we expect everyone at FWPD meets that standard.”

Fitzgerald has ordered supervisors of the 16 investigative units in the department to review the cases of the roughly 200 detectives assigned to the units. Findings will then be submitted through their chain of command by Aug. 31, Povero said.

“As an additional measure of quality assurance, they will also be required to perform monthly audits on cases which include, but are not limited to, phone call follow-ups by supervisory staff,” Povero said.

He said the Special Investigations unit will also perform independent audits of each investigative unit quarterly as an additional “set of checks and balances.”

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd

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