Fort Worth police chief proposes community advisory board with handpicked members

Yffy Yossifor/

Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes proposed his take on a community advisory board to the City Council on Tuesday, a few months after a board proposed by the police monitor was voted down.

Broadly, Noakes’ board would work in similar ways that the previously proposed board would have operated, with the board focused on reviewing police policy and practices, recommending changes to the police chief, and serving as an additional avenue for residents’ concerns.

All members would go through training and a ride-along with officers before joining the board.

The committee advisory board would meet four times a year, with the ability to call for special meetings.

But unlike the previously proposed board, Noakes’ board would have 19 members instead of nine. And instead of the council picking the members, the chief suggested he would select all of them. He has already named 13.

The board would also include two police department members serving as non-voting, advisory liaisons. Noakes selected Deputy Chief Buck Wheeler and Commander Monica Martin.

Several council members, many of whom supported the previous board proposal, criticized the lack of council and community input in choosing board members and said the members already selected by the chief may not be the most representative of the city.

“If it were me picking someone from [a] particular community, that’s probably not the most appropriate voice that should be in that room,” said council member Elizabeth Beck. “The big difference between this board and the board that was proposed by council. … The main difference was who gets to pick them. Whether it’s the community through council or PD.”

In 2018, the city’s Race and Culture Task Force presented a comprehensive report that laid out more than 20 recommendations to improve racial and cultural equity in the city.

The task force was created after the 2016 arrest of Jacqueline Craig, who was tackled and arrested by a Fort Worth police officer after she called police over a dispute with a neighbor. The charges were dropped after body camera footage was leaked and went viral. Craig received a $150,000 settlement from the city.

Since then, the 2019 killing of Atatiana Jefferson by a police officer inside her home during a non-emergency call made national headlines.

The task force made a civilian oversight board of the police department its first recommendation for criminal justice improvements.

The city manager later established the Office of the Police Oversight Monitor to create criteria for the oversight board.

The police department previously had an advisory committee, but that was ended to make way for the police monitor’s recommendation.

Former police monitor Kim Neal brought a police advisory board proposal to the council in September 2021.

Nearly a year later, the council members took up the item and rejected it in a 5-4 vote after contentious meetings centering on the necessity of the board and who would be allowed to join it.

Noakes has already selected Rabbi Andrew Bloom, Susan Garnett, Felipe Gutierrez, Lauren King, Anette Landeros, Parish Lowery, Brent Carr, Lee Muhammad, David Saenz, Ty Stimpson, Estrus Tucker, Murali Vennnam and Estella Williams.

“I have great respect for a lot of these members that you’ve selected, but when I look at the selection, there are a group of people that I think are missing,” said council member Chris Nettles.

Nettles said he wants to make sure there are younger people represented on board, and he doesn’t want people who are just going to agree with the department.

Noakes said that he was careful to select members who can challenge the department and its policies, and said he’s still trying to iron out commitments for the other six spots, which give him the potential to incorporate the council’s suggestions.

Council members suggested multiple compromises for the issue of selecting the members, saying they could form two boards or add nine members with people chosen by the council.

Council member Gina Bivens was much more critical of the chief’s board in general, saying council members of color were strategically left out of the process and that the people selected know little about city processes, even if they’re well-meaning.

“I know game when I see it,” she said. “And it’s unfortunate that the wishes of the people, the Race and Culture Task Force, who called for an oversight committee, that has been ignored.”

Council members Carlos Flores, Michael Crain, Alan Blaylock and Leonard Firestone — all of whom voted down the November proposal — did not comment after Noakes’ presentation.

Mayor Mattie Parker said there’s a need for further deliberation and that she would send her feedback to Noakes directly.

She said she also had concerns about the lack of people aged 20 to 35.

“The best work we can do as leaders of this city is by this type of conversation,” she said.