FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On October 15, 2020, a Williamson County Grand Jury issued two indictments for the misdemeanor offenses of Assault Causing Bodily Injury (Texas Penal Code §22.01) and Official Oppression (Texas Penal Code §39.03) against former Williamson County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Pisa, 25, stemming from his contact with and subsequent arrest of Ms. Imani Nembhard following a traffic stop on April 21, 2019.
Both charges are class-A misdemeanor offenses that carry a potential punishment of up to 1 year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine.
In the early evening of April 21, 2019, Pisa, while working routine duties as a patrol deputy, stopped Ms. Nembhard on SH 195 for not having a front license plate. Once stopped, Pisa observed two young children in the vehicle, neither of which was restrained in car seats. Ultimately, he attempted to have Ms. Nembhard exit the vehicle and both a verbal and subsequent physical confrontation occurred between them, ending with Ms. Nembhard being arrested for Assault Public Servant and Resisting Arrest. Ms. Nembhard and Mr. Pisa receiving minor injuries in the confrontation. Both charges against Ms. Nembhard were declined / dismissed. The entire encounter was captured on video by Pisa’s body-worn and in-car video systems and memorialized in offense reports and supplements.
The arrest of Ms. Nembhard, including the video recordings, written reports and a supplemental “Use of Force” report, was reviewed and approved by two different supervisors from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office immediately after the incident and it was determined that Pisa’s conduct fell within departmental policy. The arrest of Ms. Nembhard was re-reviewed by Williamson County Chief Deputy Tim Ryle and Deputy Ryle informed Pisa he needed to voluntarily resign. Pisa did in fact voluntarily resign in good standing within a few days of the arrest of Ms. Nembhard.
At the time of the arrest of Ms. Nembhard, Pisa was a rookie officer and his first job as a peace officer. Having graduated from the Williamson County Basic Peace Officer Course (B.P.O.C.) through the Deputy A.W. Grimes training center (D.A.W.G.) in September 2018, Pisa had been patrolling alone for only three and half months at the time of this incident. Best practices in training recommends that newly licensed peace officers ride with more experienced officers for at least 5-7 months before being placed on the streets alone. The systemic failure of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office to best train and supervise their cadets in interactions with the public directly led to Ms. Nembhard being unnecessarily arrested.
Mr. Pisa cooperated fully with the investigation led by the Texas Rangers. This 18-month long investigation revealed serious errors in the lack of and method of training offered to Williamson County Cadets through the D.A.W.G. including:
- The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office failed to teach cadets, including Pisa, classes at the B.P.O.C. pertaining to practical traffic stop scenarios.
- The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office failed to teach cadets, including Pisa, classes at the B.P.O.C. pertaining to de-escalation techniques, also known as “verbal judo.”
- The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office cut-short the Field Training Program for the new deputies, including Pisa. The structured program was designed to be approximately 5-7 months in length and led by experienced and specially trained “field training officers.” The program was unstructured and riddled with personnel problems. Further, it was inexplicably cut-short after just 12 weeks (approximately 18-20 shifts) by the Sheriff’s administration.
- The culture of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office Command Staff to offer gift cards and rewards for “good” use of force incidents.
- Multiple investigations by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement centered on the D.A.W.G.
It is our position that there are now two victims from April 21, 2019. First and foremost, Ms. Nembhard. She should not have been arrested, should not have spent two days in jail, should not have been required to post bail and should not have been subjected to this humiliating event at all. Second, as this lengthy investigation has revealed, is Mr. Pisa. Pisa did not intentionally subject Ms. Nembhard to mistreatment nor to an arrest that he knew to be unlawful. Pisa was negligently trained by the Williamson County Sheriff’s office in all things it takes to be a police officer including knowledge of the laws of Texas, how to conduct a traffic stop and how to de-escalate a situation, and was prematurely released into the community without proper guidance or supervision on how to do his job. Pisa is responsible for exposing these serious issues in training and supervision by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. The evidence will show that Pisa suffered from a critically deficient lack of training and was scarcely supervised as a rookie deputy. It is our hope that this incident, at the conclusion of the investigation into other, still pending, use of force cases at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, will ultimately be viewed as a training and supervision failure, rather than as an intentional abuse of power by Mr. Pisa.
Robert M. McCabe
Attorney for Christopher Pisa
If you are a member of the press, please include your request in the Press Request Form. Alternately, you may call the Law Office of Robert McCabe during regular business hours.