It took 37 days, but Fort Worth police got it right.
When somebody grabs a neighbor’s 7-year-old child by the shoulder, that person will usually get at least a misdemeanor assault ticket for unwanted contact.
That didn’t happen on Dec. 21 on Rock Garden Trail, and the insulting and belittling treatment of protective mother Jacqueline Craig left fractures of trust that might last years.
By dropping the charges of resisting arrest against Craig, 46, and her daughter, Brea Hymond, 19, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald not only saved face for a City Hall seemingly more concerned with labor relations than with serving the public.
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He also saved taxpayers in the rest of Tarrant County the time and resources that would have been wasted on grand jury proceedings, all because one condescending white male Fort Worth patrol officer couldn’t keep his sneering lecture about kids and littering to himself.
Until Thursday, Fitzgerald and Fort Worth were trying to handle the Craig family arrests by punting the cases uptown to the courthouse, claiming they couldn’t be dropped without grand jury review.
District Attorney Sharen Wilson’s statement made it clear county prosecutors would not be cleaning up Fort Worth’s mess.
These cases were all going be marked “return to sender.”
“It is our opinion based on the facts that no felonies took place,” Wilson wrote in a statement.
So Fort Worth police wound up doing what they could have done Dec. 21, writing neighbor Itamar Vardi, 40, a ticket.
Officer William Martin responded when an upset Craig reported that Vardi grabbed her son to make him pick up litter.
But Martin seemed less interested in the 7-year-old than in the litter, and after the Craigs grew more upset, he wound up drawing his Taser, strong-arming and jailing the mother, daughter and a juvenile family member.
The injustice seemed not only based on race but also on gender, with the man handled quietly but the protective African-American mother and daughter lectured and handcuffed as offenders.
A nationally known police labor official called the incident asinine, and a metropolitan police chief in Georgia called it “the worst piece of police work I have ever seen in my life.”
For Fitzgerald, it was a long episode made longer because he wants to keep an experienced and trained officer at a time when police officers are tough to hire.
Labor agreements and state civil service laws protect police, and should. But residents are also right to expect courtesy and respect from city employees.
For Fort Worth, it was an embarrassing viral-video moment that enforced every Texas and white male police stereotype.
On police units, we say this is “Where the West Begins.”
That is not supposed to seem like a threat.