Demoted official says IMPD made him a scapegoat

Darryl Pierce

Sandra Chapman/13 Investigates

Indianapolis - A former high-ranking official with the Indianapolis Metro Police Department says the City of Indianapolis made him a scapegoat in the deadly crash involving Officer David Bisard.

Former Assistant Police Chief Darryl Pierce says he was unfairly demoted, and he's willing to challenge the city in court.

"I'm doing this for the fact that they've hurt my family, they've hurt my friends, they've hurt the department," Pierce told 13 Investigates.

Hurt and humiliated, the former assistant police chief sat down with 13 Investigates to talk about his demotion weeks after Officer David Bisard crashed into a group of motorcyclists.

Eric Wells died, and two others were seriously injured.

Pierce, who responded to the scene that day, says he lost his rank, $30,000 in command salary and his reputation.

"They know who you are and they have that question in their mind, 'are you part of the corruption that was supposedly alleged that happened at the scene?' So it's been very embarrassing," he said, talking about the reactions he now gets in public.

The 59-year old, 30-year veteran has put his top bosses on notice that he plans to sue. Public Safety Director Frank Straub, Chief Paul Ciesielski and Mayor Greg Ballard demoted Pierce, saying he failed to make them aware of the gravity of the situation.

"Now once you get to death, how much more serious does it get? That's a ridiculous, and contradictory, self-serving statement. It's pretty obvious," said Indianapolis Attorney Robert Turner, who is representing Pierce.

13 Investigates video captures Pierce on the phone at the scene of the crash in one of eight conversations he had with the chief.

"I saw that yesterday, and that was when I was calling him," Pierce said, referring to a story he saw on Eyewitness News Wednesday. "My phone records would show that basically I was there for approximately 30 minutes. Out of those 30 minutes I'm talking to him at least 18. So I kept him abreast of everything," he added.

Pierce last spoke to Ciesielski at 12:32 pm and "advised him that the civilian victim of the accident was deceased and that Pierce would be leaving the accident scene to attend the one o'clock meeting."

That meeting was called by Straub to discuss his own public image.

13 Investigates asked: "Did you have any latitude of saying I'm not going to that one o'clock meeting?"

"None whatsoever," responded Pierce. He says that "While I'm talking to him at the end of that conversation, he says don't forget the meeting at one o'clock and don't be late," speaking of the order from Chief Ciesielski.

13 Investigates caught up with Straub after a public safety event, where he would only acknowledge Pierce's plans to sue.

"Everybody has a right to use the legal process, the judicial process in the way that they feel appropriate for them. So we'll see where it goes," Straub responded.

All of the questions Pierce answered were direct questions from 13 Investigates. Pierce's Attorney, Robert Turner, a former Public Safety Director himself, was very careful and limited the responses about IMPD policy, and Officer Bisard.

Pierce says he would gladly resume his role as assistant chief under a new set of bosses.