Fort Worth

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.

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