Military and Police

Texas Police Chief Fires Sergeant for Doing His Job

“This hesitation is often due to officers being distracted by the specter of public scrutiny they and their departments may have to endure. It’s become common in America for cops to get fired even after performing as trained.”

Here’s yet another story about a cop who lost his job due to a police chief’s apparent poor decision. Whenever this happens, the firing is a crime in and of itself. But the additional crime is that the community also suffers because the chief of police has robbed his community of a police sergeant due to political correctness. And he’s done it at a time when hiring is becoming increasingly difficult for law enforcement agencies.

Cops are only prudent to expect problems when city elites hire police chiefs who are so far removed from the streets they can no longer think like real cops. I’m not talking about removed in only a physical sense but in a psychological and emotional sense. Either they truly cannot recall what it’s like to be a police officer, or their statuses as mayoral appointees won’t allow them to remember what it was like to work the streets as cops.

Consider the recent case of Fort Worth P.D. Sergeant Kenneth Pierce. Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald fired Sgt. Pierce, stemming from an incident where he instructed an officer to tase a suspect who was resisting arrest. After watching the video of the incident that the chief said he’d based his decision on, any cop would find his comments disturbing. The comments seemed so earnest, so final, so utterly righteous, but also so grievously wrong.

This irresponsible statement betrays such a lack of understanding of basic police procedure and officer safety that it stuns the senses.

The suspect was “cooperating” [with officers], the chief said in a statement. He also said, “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.” The chief’s confidence in his “professional” assessment is misplaced. This irresponsible statement betrays such a lack of understanding of basic police procedure and officer safety that it stuns the senses.

As a new member of the “everyone who sees this video” crowd, I’d say the chief’s expectation that everyone will agree the supervisor’s behavior was unacceptable is grossly overconfident. I would not want to work with an officer who agreed with what the chief said about the incident I saw. I watched the video and saw officers handling the incident appropriately for the circumstances. In fact, I’ve been in many similar situations with comparable results.

Sure, perhaps other officers or supervisors might have handled it differently, and the outcome may have been different – maybe better (whatever that looks like), but also possibly worse. But that’s the nature of police work. You deal with what you have, not with what you wish you had, or what someone else imagines you had. Some enlightened people, including this chief, seem to think there are magic words that can make any uncooperative person cooperate.

If these words exist, please tell me what they are. The leftist Illuminati seem to believe every time an officer has to use force, it’s the officer’s fault because he or she didn’t conjure that elusive, enchanted, verbal salve that would have had even Osama bin Laden putting the handcuffs on his own wrists for the arresting officer.

Sometimes, victims turn out to be suspects, suspects are actually victims, and even witnesses can become suspects.

I am providing a brief description of the incident, or you can see the video for yourself if you prefer. Officers responded to a report of a Domestic Violence (DV) assault and threats involving a knife. The original complainant, 29-year-old Dorshay Morris, reported that her boyfriend was damaging her car, and she told the dispatcher she’d threatened to stab him.

Remember, this is only the story as reported to 911; officers cannot be sure of the actual circumstances. They’d be violating officer safety if they assumed anything at face value. Sometimes, victims turn out to be suspects, suspects are actually victims, and even witnesses can become suspects. Rarely, is anything what it seems at first glance in a cop’s world.

After denying to officers that he was involved in the reported incident, police arrested the mouthy but cooperative boyfriend for public intoxication. A solo officer handcuffed and transported him to jail without incident. At this point, you’ll notice that the cops used no force at all on the one person out of the two who was cooperative. Maybe that officer knew the magic words.

Morris was evasive with police and attempted verbally to control the scene. At such a scene, where a weapon was reportedly involved, it is even more critically important to immediately secure that weapon and to ensure no one is armed with another weapon.

Early in the incident, when Officer Bayona instructed Morris to turn around (likely to check Morris for additional weapons), she said, “No.” Later, she was evasive during questioning and failed to comply with officers’ commands.

This incident was reported as DV between boyfriend and girlfriend. The investigative standards are higher for a DV. Officers can’t simply walk away when the involved parties are intoxicated or uncooperative. They must complete their investigation.

It was Morris’ lack of cooperation that caused the situation to devolve to a point where Sgt. Pierce decided to take her into custody. While attempting to arrest Morris, she repeatedly refused to follow police instructions. Then Morris resisted the attempts of Sgt. Pierce and Ofc. Bayona’s to subdue her and place her in handcuffs.

With only one cuff on one wrist, and the other loose cuff now a dangerous weapon, Sgt. Pierce instructed Ofc. Bayona to tase Morris. Once tased, Pierce and Bayona gained control of Morris. In fact, because Morris was a larger person, Sgt. Pierce, along with another officer, used two sets of handcuffs instead of one for Morris’ comfort (I know; I’ve done this too).

But what sucks even more is when the loudest quarterback in the crowd is your own chief – the guy or gal who can keep rent money from your bank account and food off your family’s table.

The moment the suspect failed to comply with police instructions, especially considering the DV nature of this call she became the problem and made herself a suspect. This is regardless of the fact that Morris had been the original complainant. She shot all the way from complainant/victim to suspicious person when she refused to cooperate with police.

Then she graduated to felony suspect when she resisted arrest. Remember, she’d already told 911 she’d threatened to stab her boyfriend for allegedly damaging her car. This is an obvious indication of potential violence. When police questioned her about damage to her car, her answers were again elusive, admitting she wasn’t sure about any damage.

Now, we get to the Monday morning quarterbacking, which really sucks for cops. But what sucks even more is when the loudest quarterback in the crowd is your own chief – the guy or gal who can keep rent money from your bank account and food off your family’s table.

Watching such a video as a cop compared to viewing it as a civilian is very different. Unfortunately, in this case, the chief of police must have watched this video as a civilian because I can’t think of many street cops I know who wouldn’t have handled that call similarly. Or, at least, agree as to how appropriately those officers performed.

What were the officers supposed to do when Morris refused to follow simple directions? Offer her a Starbuck’s coupon for a free latte? Chief Fitzgerald stated Morris was being cooperative. Am I missing something when I read the definition of cooperative? Because I certainly didn’t see cooperation in Ms. Morris’ behavior during that incident.

How could the chief not have appropriately interpreted what he saw similar to how any reasonable police officer would have? Was it because he viewed it through a politically correct lens likely given to him by the mayor? When police union president Sgt. Rick Van Houten said the chief “got this one wrong,” he was right.

So, the video didn’t look good. It made the chief uncomfortable. So what? I can’t remember one arrest where I had to use force that looked “good,” especially to a civilian. Forceful arrests can get messy. And, believe it or not, sometimes they look even uglier than they might otherwise because, increasingly, officers are hesitating to use the force necessary to subdue the suspect quickly.

This hesitation is often due to officers being distracted by the specter of public scrutiny they and their departments may have to endure. It’s become common in America for cops to get fired even after performing as trained.

Here’s a tragic example of such officer hesitation. Last summer, there was an incident in Chicago where a suspect, high on PCP, severely beat a police officer. From her hospital bed, the officer told her superiors she’d hesitated to use proper force. The officer said she would have been justified in shooting the suspect, who was unresponsive to the tasers another officer had shot at him, and was still smashing her head into the pavement.

Chicago P.D. Superintendent Eddie Johnson said, “She knew that she should shoot this guy, but she chose not to, because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.” The suspect has been charged with attempted murder.

Now, I don’t know Chief Fitzgerald or Sgt. Pierce, and I don’t like to Monday morning quarterback, either. However, in this case, I have seen the video of the incident, and the chief said he fired the sergeant based on that video. So, here we have yet another case of a police chief dismissing a veteran cop simply for doing his job.

I’ll close by reiterating the police union president’s fitting comments. The chief “got this one wrong.”

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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