Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald on Monday terminated a 22-year veteran following the review of a case “eerily reminiscent” of an arrest last year that gained national attention after a video of the incident went viral.
The latest incident was uncovered by police supervisors conducting a mandatory use-of-force review. The fired officer, Sgt. Kenneth Pierce, was informed of Fitzgerald’s decision in a meeting Monday afternoon.
In August, a woman called for assistance regarding a domestic disturbance. She was cooperating, Fitzgerald said in a news release, but Pierce became “impatient, initiated an unnecessary physical confrontation and then ordered a rookie police officer to tase the woman.”
The entire confrontation was captured by bodycam video, and Fitzgerald on Monday took the unusual action of releasing the footage to the news media and the public without the normal requirement of an open-records request.
“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,” said Fitzgerald. “We are built on a foundation of being problem-solvers. Pierce responded in an opposite manner, and he escalated the situation endangering everyone involved including his fellow officers.”
Fitzgerald said the department has reached out to the victim on multiple occasions, but she has not responded.
Out of respect for her privacy and the fact this was a domestic violence case, the department redacted identifying information and obscured her face in the video.
“Thankfully, in this situation, our internal systems worked, both in the use-of-force review and the criminal investigative process.,” said Fitzgerald. “Charges against the woman were dropped after a review of the evidence, including the video.”
He also said the officer’s response does not reflect the vast majority of the department’s encounters with the public.
“Even in tough and challenging times, our officers demonstrate leadership, patience and de-escalation tactics in their daily work,” said Fitzgerald. “In my mind, all people should be treated with dignity and respect. That’s nnon-negotiable”
Pierce’s firing comes almost a year to the day of the arrest of Jacqueline Craig and her two daughters. Video of that incident, on December 21, 2016, went viral and became a national story.
The officer in that incident, William Martin, was suspended for 10 days without pay for escalating the situation and other errors in judgment. Martin, who is white, arrested Craig and her daughters, who are black, despite the fact that Craig had called the police for help in a dispute with a neighbor.
Last week, the city of Fort Worth told Craig that it will not pay damages in claims she filed against the city over her arrest, which for months caused outcry in the city’s black community. The claims are likely headed to federal court.