Fort Worth’s top law enforcement officer insisted that city police “will not change” their mission even if Texas’ new border security measure were to take effect.

Police Chief Neil Noakes issued a video statement Monday on X, pledging that, although the Fort Worth Police Department will “always follow the law, the primary responsibility for immigration enforcement and border protection should be left to our federal and state partners.”

Noakes continued, accompanied by a Spanish translation:

In light of the vibrant growth of our city and the diversity of our communities, our department remains unwavering in its commitment to community policing and making Fort Worth the safest city in the country for all who call this community home.

The statement caused some concern online from elected officials, including Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont), who called “selective enforcement” of the measure “unacceptable and dangerous.”

Matt Rinaldi, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, also appeared to comment on Noakes’ statement by noting that if the measure is upheld, state law “provides penalties for a refusal to enforce, including removal from office” upon attorney general petition.

Feeling the heat, Fort Worth PD’s X account issued a follow-up statement one day later.

“To be clear – and so there is no confusion, Fort Worth Police Department will ALWAYS enforce the law,” the department maintained.

When Noakes’ initial statement was issued, the United States Supreme Court had handed down a ruling that temporarily extended a pause on Texas’ Senate Bill 4 of the 88th Legislature’s fourth special session from being enforced.

The high court ruled one day later that the measure, which would make it a state crime to enter Texas illegally and empower local law enforcement, could go into effect while the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decides on the case.

However, the Fifth Circuit put the measure temporarily on hold again on Tuesday night.

Legal clashes over SB 4 first heated up in February when David Alan Ezra, a U.S. district court judge, blocked the law from taking effect. Several days later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit halted Ezra’s order, which appeared to open the door for the new law.

The U.S. Supreme Court then delayed the appeals court’s greenlight for the measure several times before March 18, kicking off the latest string of developments.

While Fort Worth PD withheld a public position on SB 4 until Monday, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn commented on it in December to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

“We don’t really see there will be a need for enforcement in Tarrant County. SB 4 mainly applies to counties on the border. The arresting officer has to see the illegal crossing happen in order to make an arrest,” Waybourn informed the paper.

At the time, Fort Worth police declined to answer questions by the Star-Telegram. However, Arlington police said they believe “federal partners continue to be best equipped and trained to handle” these cases.

Tarrant County Judge Tim O’Hare told Texas Scorecard in a Tuesday statement that he believes “the Fort Worth Police Department will follow the law, as they indicated in their recent statement to the public.”

He further questioned the federal government’s effort in handling the border crisis.

“The Office of Refugee Resettlement has lost track of thousands of unaccompanied minors in the past two years. We cannot rely on the same federal government that loses thousands of children to properly enforce and protect our border,” explained O’Hare.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) also defended Fort Worth PD on X, airing out similar considerations to Waybourn.

“Expecting local police in the interior (eg. Ft. Worth) to engage in SB 4 enforcement misses the mark,” argued Schaefer.

Texas Scorecard contacted Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker but received no response before publication.

When Scorecard reached out to Fort Worth PD, the department referred back to its initial statement on social media.

Luca Cacciatore

Luca H. Cacciatore is a journalist for Texas Scorecard. He is an American Moment inaugural fellow and former welder.