A 22-year Fort Worth, Texas, police sergeant has been fired after a use-of-force review showed that the officer’s conduct while on duty was “absolutely unacceptable,” the department said Monday.
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald fired Sgt. Kenneth Pierce for violating the department’s code of conduct when responding to a disturbance.
The incident started when a women called the Fort Worth Police Department for assistance regarding a domestic disturbance. Bodycam video of the incident was discovered during a mandatory use-of-force review, according to the department’s statement.
Fitzgerald said Pierce became “impatient, initiated an unnecessary physical confrontation and then ordered a rookie police officer to Tase the woman.”
The bodycam video shows Pierce and an unnamed rookie officer confronting a couple at a residence and asking them to turn around and face a wall. The woman in the video refuses to turn around, saying her baby is inside.
The man, who the woman says is her boyfriend, says, “Y’all going for the wrong people.”
The rookie officer asks if the two got into an argument. The man responds “no.”
Next, the rookie officer asks the woman to retrieve her ID from her purse. The woman gets her ID out of her wallet but refuses to hand it to the officer. Pierce tells the woman to turn around and to hand over her ID. When the woman continues to refuse, the rookie officer grabs the woman by the arm and tries to handcuff her.
The woman can be heard repeatedly yelling, “Let my hand go! Let my hand go!”
Pierce rushes over and grabs the woman’s other hand. The three continue to struggle, then Pierce commands the rookie officer to “Tase” the woman.
“I’m confident that everyone who sees this video, including members of this department, will agree this supervisor’s response and subsequent behaviors are absolutely unacceptable,” Fitzgerald said.
“We are built on a foundation of being problem solvers,” Fitzgerald added. “Pierce responded in an opposite manner, and he escalated the situation, endangering everyone involved, including his fellow officers.”
Terry Daffron, an attorney for the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, told The Star-Telegram that he doesn’t agree with Fitzgerald’s assessment of the video. Daffron will be representing Pierce in his appeal.
“They are making claims that Pierce escalated the situation, and I don’t see it that way,” Daffron told The Star-Telegram. “I see that she was completely noncompliant with everything she was asked to do. He came in and was trying to help the rookie officer gain control to try to get her to comply.”
Fitzgerald said that the department has reached out to the woman in the video multiple times but has not heard back. The department blurred her name and face in the video out of respect for her privacy.
While Fitzgerald said Pierce’s response “does not reflect the vast majority of the department’s encounters with the public,” this is not the first time the department has had to confront an officer’s questionable behavior. Pierce’s termination comes a year after the arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters. Bodycam video of that arrest gained national attention, and Fitzgerald said the current case is “eerily reminiscent” of last year’s arrest.
“Even in tough and challenging times, our officers demonstrate leadership, patience and de-escalation tactics in their daily work,” Fitzgerald said. “In my mind, all people should be treated with dignity and respect. That’s nonnegotiable.”