Story By: Darwin Campbell,
I will respectfully serve the citizens of Fort Worth and the Fort Worth Police Department. I will dedicate myself to the protection of life, property, and our public trust. My integrity, character, and courage will be above reproach, and I will accepted no less from other member our our department. – Fort Worth Police Honor Code
FORTH WORTH- The scars of racial insensitivity and historical racism in Cowtown are oozing and open in The Fort Worth Police Department creating friction with the community, testing the blue shield loyalty of officers and the integrity of the department’s honor code.
Much of the frustration boiled over and drew public attention after one Fort Worth Police Officer made hurtful racial statements about Blacks and other minorities on an independent website.
“This is very embarrassing,” said Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halsted. “This has hurt our image and hurt and our relationship with the African-American and Hispanic communities.”
Halstead admitted that Fort Worth Police Department has a host of issues because it been a city where old west Cowtown traditions have been allowed to exist and are quietly accepted as normal without being challenged or talked about.
The controversy has been brewing within the department for quite sometime, but the offensive words of Fort Worth Police Officer Tim Fornash propelled the department’s problems into the media limelight and put racism and community questions about how officers treat minority citizens and race relations in the department between fellow officers on center stage.
It is not the first racist incident or complaint recorded against the Fort Worth Police Department. Reports indicate that Blacks and Hispanic citizens have been beaten by police, tased with excessive force, shot and even died in custody at the hands of police. Police have never been held legally accountable for any of those cases. To make matters worse, friction between Black, White and Hispanic officers is high over several alleged incidents involving rope and Hangman’s nooses being discovered on the desks of Black officers. Noose neckties are a symbol of bigotry and hatred and intimidation. Some Black officers are reporting being called “Nigger” and teased and bullied by White officers in the department.
Fornash offended many citizens by using profanity and dishonoring President Barack Obama, referring to him as O’bum’a,our half Black God and referring to Blacks and other minorities as “abortion babies”, “barrio bimbos”, “pole smokers”, and “wetbacks”. He allegedly made those comments on a website and was not on duty at the time.
“The system of institutional racism in Fort Worth has exposed our people to torture and terrorism by police officers for too long,” said Rev. Kiev Tatum, a member of the advisory board and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Fort Worth. “It is out of control and we are calling for the police chief to be fired or to go because he has allowed this racist culture to fester and grow for far too long.”
Fornash is a six-year veteran who patrols African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods. He was not suspended or terminated for his views or for belittling the residents he was sworn to serve under in the Fort Worth Police Honor Code.
Halstead said Fornash was protected under the First Amendment rights that guarantees freedom of speech and a Supreme Court case that limits the legal actions that could be taken against him. He also stated that Fornash had medical and psychological problems and was on medication at the time he made the statements.
“People wanted him fired and I would have, but the law protects his right to make comments as a private citizen,” Halstead said. “However, I issued him the strongest discipline possible – a written reprimand and a video tape order that such behavior in the future will not be tolerated on or off duty and it should not happen again.”
Sadly, Fornash still carries a badge, a taser, billy-club, mace and an arsenal of weapons and a police cruiser to drive through the same neighborhoods and protecting citizens that he resents.
According to the department website, the mission of the Fort Worth Police Department is to provide quality service in partnership with the community to create a safe community for all.
The Fort Worth Police Honor Code appears not very honorable given the problems in the Fort Worth Police Department. Racism’s undercurrents in the department have spilled over into department offices and the streets. So, how safe are Blacks, Hispanics and other minorities on the streets of Fort Worth, if the department is a smoldering powder keg and ones sworn to protect and serve are the fuses and the powder that are ready to explode.
“This is my issue and I own it,” Halstead said. “I am working on a plan to fix it and we will fix it.”
The only ones standing to lose are the taxpaying citizens living under the fear of that city police appear to be a secret society of bounty hunters and vigilantes and that Chief Halstead has lost control of the department and police officers he leads.
The African-American News&Issues is concerned about the safety of Blacks and other minority citizens in Fort Worth. A department awash in alleged racist history, behaviors and complaints needs oversight by a special state or federal panel to ensure the safety of citizens and that all police officers are treated equally and fairly. Those involved in bullying, harassment or racist behaviors should be fired for violating the public trust.