FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – A white Texas police officer shown in a viral video arresting a black family that reported an assault on a young boy by a white neighbor will only be suspended 10 days and not fired, his chief said Monday.
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel F. Fitzgerald concluded Officer William A. Martin violated the department’s code of conduct following an internal-affairs investigation.
Martin is shown in a viral video posted on Facebook on Dec. 21 speaking with the unidentified white neighbor before speaking with mother Jacqueline Craig, who reported the alleged assault on her 7-year-old son.
Martin is heard asking Craig why she had not taught her son not to litter. Craig replied that even if her son had littered, it was not okay for the man to touch her son.
The officer then says that if she “pissed” him off, he would take her to jail. Craig’s unidentified 15-year-old daughter is shown stepping between the two and Martin is shown pushing Craig to the ground and placing his stun gun at her back while her children scream at the officer. He then arrests Craig, the 15-year-old and a 19-year-old daughter recording the incident.
Craig was arrested for failure to identify and for warrants relating to unpaid traffic tickets. Her daughters were arrested for interfering with a police officer.
Fitzgerald told reporters Monday that he concluded Martin’s policy violations include neglect of duty and discourtesy.
“The buck stops here,” he said at a press conference. “I have decided on a 10-day suspension without pay … he is very sorry for what transpired.”
Martin’s suspension begins Jan. 10.
Fitzgerald said Martin will be ordered for additional training and will return to the same neighborhood “to repair relationships” with the community. He denied the decision was “sanctioning bad behavior” by cops.
“People make mistakes,” the police chief said. “We have levels of mistakes that every police officer makes. Some things deserve punishment, some do not. Some deserve termination, some do not.”
Fitzgerald, who is black, said on Dec. 23 that Martin’s actions were not racist.
“What I can say is that I noticed in the video that the officer was rude,” he said at the time. “And there is a difference between rude and racist.”
The Craigs’ attorney, S. Lee Merritt of Philadelphia, blasted Martin’s punishment as a “10-day vacation.” He said the punishment sends a message to blacks that the “community cannot rely” on police.
“We said we wanted a firing and charges,” Merritt told reporters at a separate press conference Monday afternoon. “This was not a rookie officer. He is a veteran who does not need additional training.”
Merritt said he will ask prosecutors to drop the pending charges against his clients.
“They are understandably in disbelief, shock and [are] upset,” he said.
Family member Roderick Smith said he is “livid” at Martin’s light punishment and asked protesters to “keep protesting” the arrests.
Sam Jordan, spokeswoman for Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson, said Monday the case would be presented to a grand jury “in its entirety,” including possible charges against Martin, the Craigs and their neighbor.