Watch CBS News

Tarrant County's jail chief retires amid controversy over inmate deaths

CBS News Live
CBS News Texas Live

FORT WORTH – Tarrant County's jail chief is retiring as controversy continues to swirl over recent inmate deaths.

Executive Chief Deputy Charles Eckert "retired very honorably" and brings to a close 32 "stellar years" with the Tarrant County Sheriff's Office, a statement said Wednesday. 

Eckert has led the day-to-day operations of the jail since December 2020.  

"He (Eckert) just won administrator of the year in Texas and has many other positive accomplishments during his tenure," the sheriff's office said in the announcement. "He will be missed, and we wish him the absolute best in his retirement. 

"Anyone who would speak negatively about Chief Eckert's service is clearly misinformed or being divisive."  

In a statement, Tarrant County Precinct 2 Commissioner Alisa L. Simmons said Eckert's departure is a "significant but necessary first step in addressing the alarming rise in jail deaths in the Tarrant County Jail."

In April, Simmons called for a federal investigation after two recent Tarrant County inmate deaths.  Another jail death was reported this week. It is currently being investigated.

"While the longtime jail chief will be leaving after 32 years, systemic problems within the jail remain," Simmons said. "The ultimate responsibility for these issues lies with Sheriff Bill Waybourn."

Simmons said Waybourn should lead "the effort to implement meaningful reforms that ensure the safety of those in custody and uphold their civil rights." 

She said commissioners "bear responsibility for this epidemic of jail deaths and the sheriff's office's lackluster adherence to standard operating procedures, processes, and protocol."

"We must work collaboratively to ensure that our facilities are safe and that our staff is adequately trained to uphold the highest standards of care and constitutional rights," Simmons said.

"... It is my hope that my colleagues on the court will join me in taking decisive actions to prevent further loss of life and restore public trust in our county's justice system."

Last week, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill E. Waybourn walked CBS News Texas anchor Doug Dunbar through the moments surrounding inmate Anthony Johnson Jr.'s controversial death

Johnson's family previously had expressed outrage after the sheriff released video from in-custody death.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.