Discipline Done Right, “Litter Cop” William Martin Suspended
January 13, 2017 (Fault Lines) – On December 21, 2016, Fort Worth Police Officer William Martin responded to a possible assault call involving an adult while male who allegedly choked a 7-year-old black male for littering. To say that Martin did not respond appropriately is to put it way too mildly, and after a cellphone video of the encounter went viral, local activists called for the firing of Martin.
To his credit, Police Chief Joe Fitzgerald, a black man, immediately ordered an investigation, stating that he was disappointed in the video, but that he thought that the officer was rude, but not racist. Martin was placed on administrative leave with pay while the incident was investigated.
To be absolutely clear, Martin was dead wrong in how he handled this. The child’s mother explained that the white suspect had assaulted her child, and the officer’s response was about teaching her son not to litter? Really? To put this in context, littering is a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, with a maximum fine of $500, if committed by an adult. Under Texas law, a 7-year-old can’t even be charged with a juvenile justice offense of Conduct Indicating a Need for Supervision (CINS) or Juvenile Delinquency. You see, in Texas, the child has to be at least 10 before even the juvenile justice code comes into play.
It is, however, a felony to assault a child, called Injury to a Child and it is a third degree offense punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Martin completely ignored that criminal offense and when the mother correctly stated that even if her son did litter, it did not give the suspect the right to put his hands on the child, Martin said:
Jesus, is Martin really that stupid? The suspect doesn’t have the right to put hands on the child because it is a felony offense to do so. He’s supposed to be aware of what the criminal laws of the state are because he’s supposed to enforce them. In any event, the Internal Affairs investigation has been completed, and Chief Fitzgerald suspended Martin for ten days without pay.
That’s an appropriate punishment, and is the equivalent of half a months pay for Martin. That’s probably in excess of $2,500 based on the time that Martin has served the city of Fort Worth. It will get his, and other officers attention. The offense I saw was not worthy of termination if Martin did not have a prior disciplinary history, but it was also deserving of more than just a slap on the wrist.
The only problem I have with the matter is the District Attorney. Apparently she feels that the best solution is to put both the child’s mother and the white suspect in front of a grand jury to determine if either should be charged. That’s ridiculous. Sharon Wilson should drop all charges against the mother, but should let the grand jury look at the Injury to a Child statute.
And no article on police discipline would be complete with the responses from the PoliceOne.Com crowd. I’m proud of the officers for the most part.
Siiiiiiigggghhhhhh…….This call could’ve been resolved and settled so easily and it would’ve been onto the next one…. But no. No. Simply No. She states that littering isn’t a reason to put your hands on a 7 year old child and the officer says………drum roll…..”Why not?” You gotta be [explective] kidding me dude. Then we go onto “if you piss me off I’m takin you to jail” or something to that affect. Yes the mother and family escalated it to being physical but the Officer is not free of blame here either. He verbally antagonized it. He was being a [explective] and here’s the result. Great going guy.
There were actually plenty of others like this post, but I highlighted it because it was the best of the bunch (and I’m ignoring the few posts that basically said that an officer can do no wrong, as they were vastly outnumbered this time).
There’s hope here, based on the response.
 Texas Fam. Code § 51.02
 Texas Pen. Code § 22.04