A recently demoted Fort Worth police captain took part in a news conference Monday where activists called for Chief of Police Joel Fitzgerald to be fired and the City Manager David Cook to either resign or be fired as well.
Capt. Vance Keyes, who was a deputy chief until Friday when he, along with then-Assistant Chief Abdul Pridgen, were demoted following an investigation into the leak of a viral body camera video.
Pridgen and Keyes were summoned to a meeting with Fitzgerald Friday and made aware of their demotions. Fitzgerald said he’ll further recommend Pridgen be demoted further to sergeant while Keyes also faces a three-day suspension.
Earlier this year both Pridgen and Keyes were placed on restricted duty amid a probe into who leaked Officer William Martin’s body camera video showing the controversial December 2016 arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters.
Craig called 911 to complain a neighbor had assaulted her son after accusing him of littering. Martin questioned why Craig didn’t teach her son not to litter and suggested the neighbor had the right to assault her son.
Martin was suspended for 10 days after the arrests; cell phone video of the arrests was broadcast nationwide and drew widespread criticism.
Weeks after the cell phone video went viral, footage of the same incident from Martin’s body camera was leaked. Martin’s private personnel file also was released anonymously.
The department launched a criminal investigation and a separate internal affairs investigation into the leak and determined Pridgen and Keyes were responsible.
Pridgen and Keyes have denied being the source of the leaks and their attorneys have already spoken out against the decision to demote them.
Keyes, speaking candidly Monday, said he cooperated fully with the investigation and that there are nine hours of recordings made during the interviews that show he was cooperative. He said he offered to allow supervised searches of his personal computer and phone and that the department declined.
Keyes punctuated his statement Monday by adding that the chief was more concerned with “upward mobility than the welfare of the community” and that “I must respect his official position, but I no longer respect his judgment.”
When asked about what led to his demotion, Keyes said: “The chief left it open, the chief leaves a lot of things open. If you have criminal charges bring it on. The administrative charges are weak. I didn’t do anything. I welcome any further inquiry into my activity.”
Family and supporters of Jacqueline Craig, and Keyes, called for Fitzgerald to be fired Monday over his handling of the case.
We’re calling on the city to send Fitzgerald packing,” said Pastor Michael Bell, with the Greater St. Stephen First Church of Fort Worth, who served on the committee that interviewed and signed off on Fitzgerald’s hiring. “He should be fired today.”
Bell said he met with City Manager David Cook on Friday, at Cook’s request, to see what could be done to repair the situation. In the meeting, Bell said Cook said Fitzgerald was brought in to make things better following outgoing Chief Jeffrey Halstead, but that he made it worse.
“In an effort to deflect attention from the wrongs done to the Craig family and this city’s African-American community, Fitzgerald, Cook, Rick Van Houten [Fort Worth POA President] and others have colluded to focus attention on the so-called leak of the body cam,” Bell said. “Consequently two of the highest-ranking, respected Fort Worth police officers, Mr. Vance Keyes and Mr. Abdul Pridgen, have been unjustly accused, demoted and lied on by Joel Fitzgerald with the backing of David Cook, Valerie Washington and the police officer’s association, led by Rick Van Houten.”
Craig and her supporters said they feel the decision to demote Pridgen and Keyes is a second injustice because it’s more severe than the 10-day suspension Martin received after the initial incident.
They also disagree with the entire premise of the investigation because they believe the body camera video the chiefs are accused of leaking should have been made public from the beginning.
“I’m not some back-door dealing, double-talking, side-stepping political puppet. I’m a career public servant,” Keyes said. “Unfortunately, because I’m speaking here today, I fully expect to suffer further retaliation at the hands of the city, the chief and his executive command staff.”
After learning his punishment Friday, Pridgen said justice would be done and added, “I’m pretty sure they can expect a lawsuit.”
Following Monday’s news conference, the deaprtment said “In the interest of respecting the officers’ rights to due process in this investigation, we are unable to discuss the particular facts in the case. The charging letters that were sent to the Civil Service Commission are available and were provided Friday at the press conference. The Chief does not have a comment on Vance Keyes’ position. The case will be forwarded in its entirety to the CS Commission.”
Chief Details Investigation into Leak, Says Demotions Were Difficult
“This has been one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make as chief,” Fitzgerald said at a Friday night news conference.
The chief said Pridgen and Keyes were “two men I trusted, called colleagues and called friends.”
The evidence showed the same files that were leaked had been downloaded from Pridgen’s office computer at a time he and Keyes were in his office, Fitzgerald said.
Both men were less than candid with internal affairs investigators they once supervised, the chief added.
“Both of these men knew more than they disclosed to investigators,” Fitzgerald said.
As assistant chief, Pridgen earned $167,999, according to city records. Keyes earned $133,972 as deputy chief.
NBC 5’s Scott Gordon, Alice Barr, Larry Collins and Frank Heinz contributed to this report.
Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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