BLACK VOICES

White Texas Cop Suspended 10 Days Without Pay For Violent Arrest Of Black Family

The chief says it's a “significant punishment,” but an attorney for the family disagrees.

01/09/2017 04:47 pm ET

A white police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, has been suspended without pay for 10 days following the release of a video last month showing him being violent toward three black women who were trying to report that a family member allegedly had been assaulted.

The officer, William A. Martin, violated policy regarding “discourtesy and inappropriate contact” during the incident, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald said Monday during a press conference. 

“Quite frankly, Officer Martin felt that he let me down,” Fitzgerald said. “We want to reassure members of the public that this is an isolated incident.”

Video of the arrest, which includes explicit language, first emerged on Facebook shortly after the confrontation. It appears to show Jacqueline Craig, 49, talking to Martin and alleging that a neighbor, a white man also seen in the video, had grabbed her 7-year-old son by the neck. She said the neighbor had accused her son of tossing a piece of paper on the ground and refusing to pick it up. 

Instead of filing a report, Martin dismissed Craig’s complaint and questioned her parenting.

“Well, why don’t you teach your son not to litter?” he asked.

“He can’t prove to me that my son littered,” Craig responded. “But it doesn’t matter if he did or didn’t. It doesn’t give him the right to put his hands on him.”

“Why not?” Martin shot back. 

Martin can be heard threatening to throw Craig in jail when she protests his reaction. Then the video shows one of Craig’s daughters attempting to get between her mother and the officer, leading Martin to grab her and begin making an arrest.

Bystanders screamed profanities and called the officer “pig.” In the end, Craig and two of her daughters, ages 19 and 15, were detained and booked on charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, among other counts.

The original video of the confrontation has now been viewed more than 3 million times.

Fitzgerald would not comment on the status of a separate Tarrant County investigation to determine if criminal charges should be filed against Martin. He said the administrative sanctions against the officer constituted a “significant punishment.” But a lawyer for Craig’s family disagreed.

“It sends a message out to the entire community of Fort Worth that it’s okay to assault children if they’re young black boys,” attorney Lee Merritt told The Huffington Post. “It undermines the safety of the officers of Forth Worth because it erodes the trust within the community.”

Disciplining officers is notoriously divisive in many police departments. Such matters are often handled internally, and many people have criticized the process for lacking transparency. Fitzgerald said Monday that some officials in his department believed Martin’s punishment was too severe. Merritt, however, suggested that it followed a pattern of lenience shown toward problem officers.

“This isn’t what we were hoping for, but we aren’t surprised,” Merritt said. 

Hayley Miller contributed reporting.

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