Local County Jail Chief Retiring Amid Inmate Deaths

Tarrant County Jail Chief Charles Eckert | Image by Tarrant County Sheriff's Department
Tarrant County Jail Chief Charles Eckert | Image by Tarrant County Sheriff's Department

Tarrant County Jail Chief Charles Eckert is retiring after overseeing the county jail for almost four years.

Eckert told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the retirement had nothing to do with the recent deaths in the Tarrant County jail.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, Anthony Ray Johnson Jr. died last month after being pepper sprayed and placed on the ground by jailers after a fight broke out during a routine cell check for contraband. Tarrant County Commissioners have criticized the sheriff in the wake of the recent inmate deaths.

Tarrant County Sheriff Waybourn has previously stated that the department is doing everything it can to address the issues facing the jail.

“Mental Health has been absolutely thrown on to law enforcement. We are doing everything we know to be that safety net for the community, including de-escalation training for officers dealing with exploding mental health issues,” Waybourn said.

“This is a great agency. It’s just after 32 years, I felt like it was a good place to retire,” Eckert said in the phone interview, reported Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “If I had retired in the middle of COVID, I would have been called a coward — they would say I was running away.”

Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Robbie Hoy wrote in an email that Eckert “retired very honorably,” reported KERA News.

“He just won administrator of the year in Texas and has many other positive accomplishments during his tenure. He will be missed and we wish him the absolute best in his retirement,” Hoy said, per KERA.

Tarrant County Commissioner Alisa Simmons stated that Eckert’s retirement provides an opportunity for “innovative, progressive” leadership to prevent jail deaths.

Hoy pushed back against any criticism of Eckert.

“Anyone who would speak negatively about Chief Eckert’s service is clearly misinformed or being divisive,” he said, according to KERA.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, two inmates died in the Dallas County jail last year. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins described the situation at the jail as a “mess.”

The Dallas Express reached out to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office for comment but did not receive a response.

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