Exclusive Interview: Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes

CBS 11 News anchor Doug Dunbar sat down with the new chief to discuss his goals and approach to his highly visible position.

Video Transcript

KEN MOLESTINA: It's the first few full weeks for the new police chief in Fort Worth, and despite the small amount of time on the job, he's already had to deal with some pretty big issues. Doug Dunbar sat down with Neil Noakes. He joins us in studio now.

DOUG DUNBAR: Yeah, you think about today. That's a huge issue he's had on his plate through the day today, but meanwhile, Chief Neil Noakes comes to the job. A little bit of a different path than the new police chief in Dallas who we interviewed last week-- he came from California. For Neil Noakes, he's an insider. 20 years rising through the ranks at Fort Worth PD, a path he feels gives him a pretty good advantage.

NEIL NOAKES: With all the time I spent in patrol, the time I spent as a detective, and a sergeant, and other ranks, I still got that ground level view.

- Fort Worth's next police chief, Neil Noakes. Neil.

DOUG DUNBAR: With two decades of service to the department he now oversees, chief Neil Noakes faces a double-edged sword, commanding some of the very same public servants that he has stood alongside for years.

NEIL NOAKES: The tough part is knowing, at this level, every decision I make, I'm going to make someone unhappy. When there's that many people involved, there's no way to make everyone happy.

DOUG DUNBAR: At just under 1,700 officers, Noakes runs a big department, with big expectations from city leaders, as well as city residents, some who simply have lost trust in the officers who are sworn to protect them.

NEIL NOAKES: We have got to do better about reaching out in non-law enforcement ways, creating opportunities for positive engagement with citizens. We have to make sure officers understand every single interaction they have with a citizen, as a chance to change that negative narrative that's out there about the police.

DOUG DUNBAR: And Noakes admits stepping on your own foot doesn't help. This week the newly seated chief fired an officer for DUI, another for posting racially insensitive material, a third is under investigation for the same problem. But Noakes is finding something that hasn't existed for a long time in policing in those last two cases.

NEIL NOAKES: The part that I see the hope in, both officers were reported by other forward police officers in both incidents.

DOUG DUNBAR: And why does that matter to you?

NEIL NOAKES: It matters because a lot of people think we have what's called the blue wall of silence-- that police officers always protect other police officers no matter what. Well the truth of the matter is, we have a lot of officers doing great work every single day, serving with honor and distinction. They don't want to see this badge tarnished.

DOUG DUNBAR: The challenge ahead is to reduce violent crime in the city-- to never see another moment like the officer involved shooting of a Atatiana Jefferson. He's also hopeful for the work of the department's relatively new crisis intervention team-- mental health experts dispatched to situations that all too often in the past have led to shooting deaths.

NEIL NOAKES: We're not trained social workers. We do train officers in crisis intervention, but it's not the same as having someone who does that for a profession.

DOUG DUNBAR: If we sit down in this same room a year from now, what do you hope to tell me a year from now?

NEIL NOAKES: What I hope to tell you a year from now is one, our violent personal crime has been reduced. I hope to tell you that we have made some amazing strides in our relationships with every single community in Fort Worth, and specifically the communities where we're having trouble now. We don't just need to go to the communities that love us already. That's easy. We have to go where it's hard.

DOUG DUNBAR: And part of Chief Noake's strategy to engage these communities that they need to, is he says to be there without patrol cars at times and uniforms. He's talking about attending church services, being in schools with kids. As he likes to put it, Ken, showing their human side.

KEN MOLESTINA: Yeah and he has his work cut out for him, that's for sure. Doug, thank you very much.