The police officer involved in the killing of a North Texas woman inside her own home has resigned. Interim Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus announced Aaron Dean turned in his badge this morning after being put on detached duty.
“Had the officer not resigned I would have fired him for violations of several policies including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy, and unprofessional conduct,” Kraus said while noting the administrative investigation will continue as if Dean was fired from the department. “A statement to that effect will be placed within the investigation to serve as a written record of that determination.”
It’s not surprising to see this outcome and criminal charges are probably on the way, possibly as soon as tomorrow. The body camera footage of Atatiana Jefferson’s shooting painted Fort Worth police in a horrible light especially because Dean immediately pulled the trigger after encountering Jefferson. He also failed to identify himself as an officer of the law. Kraus noted the only way Dean would have been justified in opening fire is if Jefferson was actively shooting at him. This wasn’t happening.
One of the more interesting parts of the news conference was Kraus’ apology for the inclusion of images of Jefferson’s handgun in the department’s release of the body camera footage.
“In hindsight, it was a bad thing to do,” Kraus admitted during the news conference and suggested the pictures were there because there was a weapon involved. “However, we’re homeowners in the state of Texas. I can’t imagine most of us if we thought we had someone outside our house…that we wouldn’t act very similarly to how she acted.”
The chief said he did not know if Jefferson was holding the weapon at the time although it was found next to a window where she was killed. Jefferson had a License To Carry.
Fort Worth has taken a lot of heat this year for officer-involved shootings, however, this one is pretty open and shut. Dean failed his training in multiple ways. The Fort Worth Police Officers Association may have washed their hands of him if one reads between the lines of their statement posted online yesterday. FWPOA said the circumstances of the shooting are heartbreaking and want transparency in the investigation. They’ve yet to comment on Kraus’ comments from today.
It will not be easy to find a solution. Jefferson’s family said this morning they wanted a federal investigation into Fort Worth PD while City Manager David Cooke announced an independent team of law enforcement experts would review the department.
“We were working on having a third party group of national experts come in to review current police policies and training practices to make sure the best policies are in place,” Cooke said while also announcing candidates for a newly-established police monitor position should be interviewed next month. The monitor was recommended earlier this year by the city’s Task Force on Race and Culture.
There have also been questions raised about Fort Worth police tactics since the firing of Joel Fitzgerald back in May. Fitzgerald’s attorney suggested Jefferson would still be alive if Fitzgerald were still on the job. It was intimated by Jefferson family attorney Lee Merritt that Fitzgerald, who is black, wasn’t necessarily the savior but could be the person who led reform. Merritt was smart enough to point out his desire for change does not necessarily mean a black man or woman needs to be the top cop. Merritt should know as he was involved in the Amber Guyger case and Dallas has had two black chiefs in a row.
It would be unwise to see Fitzgerald as the solution or part of the solution. This is the same Fitzgerald who was expected to become Baltimore Police Commissioner earlier this year until The Baltimore Sun discovered he lied on his resume regarding his time in Fort Worth and Allentown, Pennsylvania. This included false claims he started FWPD’s body camera program and lowered crime rates. He was also kicked out of the Texas police officers union after attempting to get around their membership requirements. He was relieved of duties by Fort Worth following a heated confrontation with the union head at a gala in Washington, DC. Fitzgerald and his attorney see his firing from Fort Worth as some form of racism but it could be he was simply inept.
We’ll more than likely find out tomorrow whether Dean will face criminal charges. It would honestly be shocking if he wasn’t charged.
The shooting was avoidable but whatever punishment Dean receives should not be considered a cure-all. Perhaps it would be wise for police officers to not see everyone or almost everyone as a potential threat. Perhaps it would also be wise to end the militarization of our police departments as suggested last year by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. MRAPs are not a legitimate need for local police departments, especially those in smaller towns and cities. The federal government needs to end its militarization incentives for local police departments.
All these potential solutions will take time and patience from both the community and law enforcement. Mistakes will be made and those who make them should be punished for their crime. Not making changes will only result in the death of more innocents.
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