Fort Worth, Texas, swore in its first black police chief Tuesday at a ceremony packed with the city’s top leaders, WFAA reports. Joel Fitzgerald takes over at a challenging time. He replaces Jeff Halstead, who retired in January amid federal discrimination lawsuits filed by several black police officers.
Black Lives Matter called for a rally in the city in August after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black college football player in Arlington, Texas. Weeks later, hundreds of mostly white people held a counter protest to support the police. Some held signs that read, “All Lives Matter.”
Many see Fitzgerald as the right person for the job. The new police chief is known for his ability to work well with the community, according to WFAA.
“The impetus is upon me to make sure that each and every person in this organization understands that when we speak of community, we’re part of the community,” he said at the ceremony. “The police department [is] an active member in the community and we’re to make sure that each contact that we have with each and every individual that we see is positive.”
With reference to Black Lives Matter, Fitzgerald told KERA News that he wants honest, “open discussions.” “One of the things I said when I was first hired here is that I’m very inclusive, and I intend on listening to all stakeholders and making sure that they have a voice,” he added.
Fitzgerald underscored his track record of bringing together the police department and community. “I feel it won’t be any different in Fort Worth, the community has really opened their arms up and embraced me so far,” he stated.
Fort Worth’s new police chief, who holds degrees from Harvard and Northwestern, previously was the first black chief of police departments in Missouri City, Texas, and Allentown, Pa. Fitzgerald was a police officer in Philadelphia before climbing the ranks. He beat five other finalists to become Fort Worth’s police chief.