Sgt. Kenneth Pierce, a 22 year veteran, was terminated by Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald in 2017 after the chief said police body camera video of an arrest showed Pierce used excessive force.
The deal approved Wednesday gives Pierce just a 35 day suspension, which Pierce has already served. He'll receive back pay for all but those 35 days and could be on duty again soon.
Dorshay Morris, the woman arrested in the video, was angry about the settlement.
“No justice has been done. He don’t deserve his job back,” Morris said.
The incident involved a domestic violence call by Morris about her boyfriend. When police arrived they found Morris carrying a knife. Pierce was seen in the video grabbing the woman. He ordered another officer to use a stun gun on her. An internal investigation found Morris should never have been arrested and the charges against her were dropped.
The woman’s lawyer, Jasmine Crockett, said a Grand Jury should have decided whether criminal charges were justified for the police officer’s conduct. She said race played a role in the outcome.
“This was unfair. In 2019 a week after MLK day, this is what we’re going through and it’s not right and we all should stand up and demand more,” Crockett said.
District Attorney Sharen Wilson wrote a letter to Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald last year saying that officers had legal justification for detaining Morris. The letter supported reduced administrative charges against the officer.
“In my opinion, under the law, she was lawfully detained and lawfully arrested,” Wilson said Wednesday.
But the letter also said prosecutors found no conduct by anyone in the incident to justify criminal charges. Wilson said the FBI had already come to the same conclusion that no grand jury review was appropriate.
“If we’re going to blame me, then we need to blame the FBI. A decision about criminal conduct is simply that,” she said.
The prosecutor said the city was still free to fire Pierce if it chose to do so for his handling of the incident and the office never offered opinions about what discipline was appropriate.
“That’s not what I do. So my only concern as the DA is looking at the evidence. Was a crime committed such that it should be taken to grand jury? And the answer in that letter, was no,” Wilson said.
Other Fort Worth police discipline cases are still pending and activists claimed the City of Fort Worth also agreed to this settlement to avoid additional hearings that could force Chief Fitzgerald to submit to questioning under oath. Fitzgerald was recently passed over for a job in Baltimore amid doubts about his truthfulness.
“They were more concerned about the image of Fort Worth than justice for Dorshay Morris,” said activist Michael Bell.
Assistant City Attorney Kelly Albin who represented the city at the hearing declined comment but the city issued a statement about the 35 day suspension later.
‘It is critically important to the City that Fort Worth Police Officers operate in a professional manner that is consistent with departmental expectations,” the statement said.
The suspension was imposed for agreed upon infractions of failure to supervise and failing to deescalate the situation.
Other allegations were dropped and Pierce dropped his complaint about being passed over for promotion to Lieutenant.
His attorney said Pierce could be back on duty within days after completing training that he missed while fired. She said it will be up to Fitzgerald to decide where to place Pierce in the department.