Mimesis Law
15 December 2017

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.[1]

It is, however, a felony to assault a child, called Injury to a Child[2] 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:

Why not?

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.

[1] Texas Fam. Code § 51.02

[2] Texas Pen. Code § 22.04

9 Comments on this post.

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  • TheHawk296
    13 January 2017 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Greg,

    I have to disagree.

    Martin needs to be fired, and his TCOLE license to be a peace officer in Texas needs to be revoked. A personality like this, as stupid as this has no business being a police officer or for that matter, dealing with the general public, including being a greeter at WalMart. Just how in the hell did a guy like Martin (or Eric Casebolt for that matter) get through a psychological screening to be a police officer? As a “police officer” did Martin really not know that assaulting a child is a felony and needs to be investigated? – That’s why he was dispatched to the scene in the first place.

    Letting Martin back on the force of FWPD only re-enforces his actions to other bad officers, not sends a disciplinary message. The message sent by the suspension – “Yes – There are consequences for bad acts, but they aren’t that bad.” I remind you that he was on ”paid administrative leave” e.g. a paid vacation for a while while this case was being investigated by FWPD IAD. That his fellow officers would tolerate Martin back amongst their ranks or work with him again is mind boggling. Sometime in the future, it’s almost certain that Martin’s stench will contaminate one or more of his fellow officers if he remains a police officer, and those that will work with him in the future need to be aware of that danger. The other thing that’s left out of the story – Has anyone who’s encountered Martin before had similar but unreported problems. As we know – filing a complaint against a police officer does not necessarily result in discipline, nor are all complaints valid, but most are whitewashed.

    The Tarrant County DA also needs to charge Martin with felony assault among other things. When police officers start being prosecuted just like the general public would be (as if the unnamed white perp had assaulted Mrs. Craig in a similar fashion) then confidence might be restored in both policing and the local DAs like Sharon Wilson who tolerate bad cops and whitewash their actions through the secretive grand jury process.

    I do agree with you that charges against Mrs. Craig need to be dropped, and the white perp investigated by the police and grand jury. Martin also needs to be charged with various felonies and in front of the grand jury also, as if it would any good.

    • Greg Prickett
      13 January 2017 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      I don’t know about you, but being docked a half-months pay is pretty big and significant to me, and to everyone I know. Also, under Chapter 143, Govt Code, a chief may not suspend an officer for over 15 calendar days (basically 10 work days) without the officer’s consent. Most suspensions are either 1 or 3 days, occasionally 5 days. A 10 day suspension is not minor, it’s huge, and a $2500-3000 pay hit is extremely significant for a cop.

      Second, except for a 30-minute video, you know nothing of the officer’s personality or intelligence, or, for that matter what had happened earlier in the day. Casebolt is a perfect example of that–his earlier calls that day had been an attempted suicide and a completed suicide. He had been officer of the year in the past, yet he made a mistake and paid the price for that mistake. The same thing with Williams, he made a mistake and is being disciplined for that mistake. You know absolutely nothing about his psychological screening, nor for that matter do you know what type of example he normally displays for other officers. You’re basing your entire evaluation of him on a 30-minute video.

      Third, anyone that thinks “paid administrative leave” is a vacation is an idiot. It’s the very furtherest thing possible from a vacation. You are required to be at your home from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM every day unless you receive permission to be somewhere else. If you make a doctor’s appointment, you still have to take sick time. You are basically stressing about what the IAD investigation is going to find, and whether you’re going to have a job when it’s over.

      Finally, exactly how are you going to charge Williams with felony assault? There was no deadly weapon used, nor serious bodily injury inflicted. Unless you can meet the elements of an offense, you don’t get to charge someone, including a cop, with a felony, and you can’t meet the elements for felony assault.

  • Tom H
    14 January 2017 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    I’m not so sure this was discipline done right. I do agree that the DA should get off her ass and make a decision about the charges against Mrs Craig. Going to the Grand Jury at some undetermined time in the future is cruel.

    After the Town Hall meeting the other night I can see why Ft. Worth PD is so screwed up. The chief has been MIA for the most part of his year plus on the job and the mayor shows up in a church and says she doesn’t want a bitch session. They think the citizens serve the city not the other way. The leadership is marginal so why should we expect the rank and file to be any better. The mayor should have called the DA and wrapped this whole package up at once, with charges dropped, discipline announced and apologize.

    Officer Martin is the perfect example of the teacup department Ft. Worth is. He wouldn’t be missed if they had let him go. If he was in any other private sector business and acted that way to a customer his ass would have been on the sidewalk the same day. This is just a bunch of government officials, elected and appointed, showing their limited intellect.

  • bacchys
    17 January 2017 at 8:18 am - Reply

    “He’s supposed to be aware of what the criminal laws of the state are because he’s supposed to enforce them.”

    Um, no. Ignorance of the law is an excuse if you’re in law enforcement. There’s simply no basis for asserting having the job of enforcing the law means one should know the law, especially when SCOTUS has decided otherwise (Heien v. NC).

  • Don Miller
    18 January 2017 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Grabbing a teenage girl and throwing her mother to the ground after intentionally escalating the situation himself should invoke way more than a 10 day suspension.
    The stupidity shown in this guys questioning of the mother shows that he belongs nowhere near a gun or potentially lethal situations that require common sense.

    • Greg Prickett
      18 January 2017 at 4:42 pm - Reply

      If the teenage girl interferes with the arrest of the mother, as she did here, grabbing her is justified. Looking at the video, the mother’s actions met the elements of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The daughter’s actions met the elements of interfering with a public servant. The issue is that the officer was an idiot, and it never should have escalated to that level, but once it did, the actions he took were legally justifiable. And that’s the standard his appeal will be reviewed by, not what we think or wish or desire. I don’t think a termination would have stuck, and I don’t think that a termination is necessary.

      • Crystal
        19 January 2017 at 12:37 pm - Reply

        Perhaps this is a matter of perspective, but what I saw in the video (if you watch closely) is that the teenager is already moving toward her mother and the officer before he ever makes a move to arrest the mother. She does not confront the officer in anyway, she faces her mother. It seems very clear to me the daughters intent was to calm her mother down and diffuse the situation.

        The cops response? To grab the teenager from behind and forcibly move her out of the way. How is that ok?

  • Tom H
    18 January 2017 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Greg,

    Seems there is more to this story. Looking forward to your thoughts.

    • Greg Prickett
      18 January 2017 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      I’m aware of the additional information, but I’m waiting to see how it plays out.