One of the issues that I have talked about from time to time is the Texas law on when a person must identify themselves to the police. In the Texas Penal Code, it is covered under Failure to Identify,† a criminal offense. Police invariably believe that this means that they have the right to identify anyone that they want, and to arrest when the person refuses to identify themselves. In August, Fort Worth Police Sergeant Kenneth Pierce ordered an officer to taze Dorshay Morris, who had called police about a domestic disturbance. On Monday, December 18, 2017, Pierce was fired. The video from the incident is telling.
First, the officers respond to the apartment and arrest the male half of the domestic disturbance.‡ Then a female officer, M. Bayona, demands to see the child in the apartment, and Morris complies. When Bayona demands to see the woman’s ID is really where the problem starts. Morris is hesitant, so the sergeant jumps in, and when Pierce asks for her ID (at 7:09), Morris correctly states that she doesn’t have to give the officers anything.
And then Pierce tells her to either hand the female officer the ID or she’s going to jail. For what? Not providing her ID? She doesn’t have to, because the law is very clear on the issue. She only has to provide ID if she has been lawfully arrested, and she wasn’t lawfully arrested at that point. Then, as the officers are struggling with Morris, Pierce tells the female officer to taze Morris, at which point she is subdued and arrested.
Another point of concern that I have is what the female officer tells the cousin of Morris, that the woman started “getting aggressive” (at 12:08)—huh? Morris in no ways was aggressive, she merely didn’t comply with an order that she did not have to comply with. That’s no where close to “getting aggressive.”
In any event, Pierce was fired by Chief Joel Fitzgerald because Pierce, according to the Internal Affairs investigation, had “no basis for the initial arrest; therefore, any force used to apply handcuffs was unreasonable.” Chief Fitzgerald said that Pierce “initiated an unnecessary physical confrontation” and that he was terminating him for neglect of duty, failure to supervise and violating the department’s use-of-force policy.
The Fort Worth Police Officer’s Association♠ disagrees, and their attorney, Terry Daffron, said that Pierce would be appealing the decision. That’s what they are supposed to do, and I’m sure they will do a good job, but in this case, Chief Fitzgerald is right. According to the Star-Telegram, the police reports do not match what is seen in the video.
Morris was charged with Aggravated Assault and Resisting Arrest, both charges were later dropped.
Bayona remains under investigation.
‡One interesting point I noted is that the female officer put on latex gloves well before they even got to the apartment. To me, that indicates an intention to go “hands on” with a subject, otherwise, why the gloves?
♠The FWPOA is a member of CLEAT, the largest police officer union/association in Texas. As disclosure, while I was an officer, I was a CLEAT member.