Patterico's Pontifications


Black Firefighter’s Racial Bias Settlement Scuttled: Tennie Pierce Will Not Get $2.7 Million for a Mouthful of Dog Food

Filed under: General,Race — Patterico @ 6:24 am

The Dog Food Guy may not be getting $2.7 million after all.

It seemed like a slam-dunk when the Los Angeles City Council made a near-unanimous decision to pay black firefighter Tennie Pierce $2.7 million to settle a racial harassment lawsuit that claimed he had been tricked into eating dog food by station mates, then taunted for months.

But the mayor vetoed the settlement — and with good reason.

Firefighters, angry that their department was being maligned, began calling in to the radio program, and several sent along old photos of Pierce — shirtless and beaming — participating in crude firehouse pranks that involved half-naked men, shaving cream and what appeared to be mustard.

I love that phrase: “what appeared be mustard.” I’m going to remember that.

Amazingly, the City Attorney’s Office appears to have known about the photos:

The office said the council was told about the photos of Pierce. Council members, in turn, said there was a brief mention of the photos — in a closed-session discussion of the case in June — but added that they had not seen them and were not fully aware of their content.

Not only that, there is apparently a non-racial reason that Pierce was given dog food:

Councilman Dennis Zine, a reserve Los Angeles police officer, was the lone council member to oppose the settlement, contending that the price tag was too high for what he believed to be a prank.

Pierce “has been a firefighter for 20 years, and now all of a sudden he wants to throw in the race card,” Zine said. “They didn’t feed him dog food because he was African American. It was because he called himself the ‘Big Dog.’ “

I was discussing this case the other day with someone in a police agency that shall go unnamed. The guy I was talking to, who is black, said that he couldn’t understand why someone would sue over this kind of thing, as hazing incidents are so common in law enforcement circles. He told me about a story involving someone being given dog food. In that case, the consumer of the dog food was white.

This firefighter Tennie Pierce wants $2.7 million for a single mouthful of dog food? I’ll eat a whole can for half that. True story: when I was a younger man, a friend of mine offered to pay me $20 for the amusement of watching me eat 20 kibbles of cat food. I did it. Granted, I’d had a few drinks at the time, as had my friend who made the offer. But the principle stands: $2.7 million is quite high for a mouthful of Alpo. Plenty of people would eat much more, for much less money.

It looks like there’s a good chance this guy won’t get to retire in luxury due to having been the victim of a minor prank. Common sense just may prevail for once in our lives.

UPDATE: By the way, it took talk radio’s John & Ken Show to expose Pierce’s own history of engaging in pranks. The initial L.A. Times story about the settlement cataloged, over the course of several paragraphs, the long history of racism at the Fire Department. It was packed with quotes from people sympathetic to Pierce and his claim of racial discrimination. Apparently, our fine local newspaper didn’t have too much motivation to dig deeper into the story, the way John & Ken did, and unearth photos like this.

UPDATE x2: Commenter Mike K. says:

Larry Elder did a show on this, as well, and had several firefighters call in. This guy was a bully and had a favorite taunt when bullying. It was “You’ve got to feed the Big Dog!” So they did.

All of a sudden, the prank makes perfect sense.

36 Responses to “Black Firefighter’s Racial Bias Settlement Scuttled: Tennie Pierce Will Not Get $2.7 Million for a Mouthful of Dog Food”

  1. i was offered fifty bucks in college to eat a cockroach. no deal!

    assistant devil's advocate (385f8e)

  2. Yeah, I think I’d draw the line there.

    But for $2.7 million . . .

    Patterico (de0616)

  3. Let’s face it, men will be boys at times.

    In my workplace, I have had my co-workers apply black ink to the earpiece on the telephone, that’
    s located on the printing press at the Los Angeles Times.

    Then call me up.

    Edward Padgett (a14a89)

  4. I’m sorry,
    this whole racist thing has really gotten to be an entitlement program or worse, a high stakes game of ‘Gotcha!”
    I am actually quite stunned that a Kalifornia municiplaity has expressed a common sense viewpoint on a social topic however! Congrats!

    paul from fl (001f65)

  5. Ask any civil rights plaintiffs’ attorney: harassment cases are extremely tough to bring and prove. There’s no money faucet out there giving out cash for frivolous claims. This is a very unusual case. For one thing, the settlement amount here is insanely high. How many single-plaintiff harassment verdicts are there out there for this sort of amount? None where I’m from, alhough I guess L.A. has a higher cost of living.

    This looks like political figures (the city council) scrambling to avoid looking like they didn’t take such claims seriously. And, ironically, in so doing, they failed to take such claims seriously by not doing a thorough investigation.

    The city counsel’s no-backbone approval of a quick, expensive settlement didn’t just hurt the defendants. Now that the truth is out, it also hurts legitimant plaintiffs in the future, by guaranteeing that the next person with legitimate complaints is lumped into the “oh, it’s just another liar looking for $2.7 million” category.

    Phil (88ab5b)

  6. hazing incidents are so common in law enforcement circles

    It’s good to know that people with guns so often behave like drunken frat-boys.

    Ugh (5df697)

  7. Look, it’s all race. The Council Members have all been elected because they played the race card or other victim group card (Hispanic, poor little women, victims of slavery, etc.). It is a part of their “social contract” to hand out welfare, entitlements, settlements, and so on to these designated victim groups. The LA Times is similarly blessed with “diversity” in their work force so the paper can achieve “balanced, reporting,” which means that every PC self designated “victim” recieves a favorable article.

    Howard Veit (28df94)

  8. Though I don’t regularly listen to John & Ken, I found this case interesting & have been following it closely.

    I thought it was telling that in today’s LA Times article the writers fail to mention (or show on their website) the most inflammatory of the photos… the one with Tennie (smiling like a fool) standing next to a guy he’s doing something nasty to (can’t tell), written on the guy “OY VEY, I’M GAY”. Very ugly double insult on gays & Jews.

    It seems to me that this photo is important in showing the possible fraudulence of Tennie’s claims. Why would the Times omit it?

    Susan R (f136fc)

  9. As a side note, Patterico, I think you’re completely failing to grasp the legitimate reason for compensation that could have existed in this case.

    The case had nothing to do with figuring out the value of choosing to eat a can of dog food. It has to do with the value of *being forced to* eat a can of dog food, and then bing treated for months as though the persons who forced you to eat said dog food have a right to do so.

    Imagine this was done to your wife. Then tell me it’s comparable to the time someone offered you $20 to eat a can of dog food.

    The critical factor in such a case is that the harassed person is treated as someone who has no right to decide whether or not to eat dog food.

    Being offered payment to eat dog food is an entirely different situation, because the person offering you payment acknowledges that you are an equal and you have a choice.

    A huge amount of any verdict in a case where forced dog-food-eating (and subsequent taunting)was found to be real harassment would be punitive damages, punishing an institution that allowed or facilitated a group of people treating one person in such a manner.

    Phil (88ab5b)

  10. You make a valid point, Phil, but in this case it is not the “institution” that is being punished by forking over the settlement, it is the taxpayers. Perhaps the firefighter’s union should have to purchase an insurance policy against these sort of claims.

    JVW (255a81)

  11. Larry Elder did a show on this, as well, and had several firefighters call in. This guy was a bully and had a favorite taunt when bullying. It was “You’ve got to feed the Big Dog !” So they did.

    I was at a meeting with Councilwoman Hahn about another subject last week. In the question period, someone asked about the settlement. She went apes**t. She went on a rant about “boys” and how this has to be stopped. My son is a firefighter (not in LA). They spend a lot of time on duty when there is no fire. They cook, play video games and probably fool around. Councilwoman Hahn has no idea of what the life is like but I’m sure she is also one of those Democrats who want boys to act like girls.

    Mike K (dfe6aa)

  12. tens of millions of african villagers would be tickled to death if you fedexed them five pounds of alpo once a week, and most of them don’t own any dogs!

    assistant devil's advocate (385f8e)

  13. Gimme a break. Hazing is institutionalized in all kinds of male-dominated occupations. When I made the varsity soccer team, I had my hair cut in a sunhawk, with my bangs left on and a star shaved in the back of my head. 24 hours like that was the rule.

    In hindsight, I may not have done it, because most of the guys on that team were assholes. However, I certainly wouldn’t have sued the school district over something I allowed to happen…

    Which is the distinction here, but it is a minor one at best. If the guy gave, he deserved to receive. It was nothing even remotely damaging that they did to him, and nothing was hurt but his ego.

    Anyone who calls themselves “The Big Dog” deserves much, much worse. Like castration worse.

    Leviticus (b987b0)

  14. Side note, the LAT has pointedly ignored KFI personalities, unless there is something embarrassing about their personal lives (i.e. Limbaugh/oxycontin, Dr. Laura’s mom found dead for a year in her apt., John Zeigler sued and crying on the witness stand…).

    TimesDisliker (37f710)

  15. I’ve been following John & Ken’s expose on the whole affair from here in China and it’s quite amusing.
    I’m not a CA native (I just like KFI and they stream), but I think it’s Councilwoman Hahn who keeps coming out with statements basically calling the fire department a bunch of moronic frat boys. Her whinging about how fire fighters must be, as reps of the city, more respectable and mature struck a chord with me.

    Anyone else have flashbacks of A Few Good Men?

    Perhaps someone should explain to Ms. Hahn:

    I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very safety that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up an extinguisher and get to work. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

    socratesabroad (6c6e57)

  16. Yeah, I don’t get how he made the leap from dog food to racism. Now, if it had been Purina Monkey Chow, he’d be shopping for a Porsche right now.

    Jim Treacher (c4006e)

  17. Speaking of lawsuits, Patterico, with your background, I think you might have something interesting to say about this:

    Many police officers fear being sued more than being murdered

    U.S. law enforcement agencies are struggling with the threat of lawsuits regarding the conduct of officers.

    Officials said the threat has become so acute that many officers would rather die than be sued. They said this has seriously hurt law enforcement and endangered the lives of officers.

    “Some officers today are more afraid of being sued than being murdered,” Olympia Fields, Ill. Police Chief Jeff Chudwin said.

    In a recent address to a police convention, Mr. Chudwin said the actions of numerous officers have created additional victims of crimes. He said officers often avoid using deadly force even when it’s legal and required.

    Christoph (5ab65d)

  18. A 92 year old woman in Atlanta shot three police officers then she was killed in the gun fight that followed. The elderly have no respect for the rules. It sickens me.

    Enid (8896c0)

  19. Old people need to learn to respect the law. They can not be running around driving like a madman shooting people. It is the hip hop music.

    Penny (8896c0)

  20. Many police officers fear being sued more than being murdered

    This is one of the most over-wrought (and misleading) headlines I’ve seen in a long time. The story shows somebody has really screwed-up priorities, but it’s not the officers on the street.

    First of all, the quote (which never said “many officers,” just “some officers”) wasn’t referring to lawsuits as the problem — it was directed at criticizing what the speaker considered to be overly-timid police. See further down:

    Mr. Chudwin, a former prosecutor, told a tactical operations seminar of cases in which officers refused to use deadly force.

    He presented videos of a plainclothes officer slashed by a knife-wielding suspect during a struggle. The officer gave his pistol to his colleague when trying to subdue the suspect. Mr. Chudwin said the officer, slashed in the face and neck, was afraid his gun would discharge during the struggle.

    “He gets praised by the media for showing restraint, but what he did makes my skin crawl,” Mr. Chudwin said. “Why didn’t he shove the muzzle in the suspect’s eye and pull the trigger?”

    So the solution to this problem, according to Mr. Chudwin, is not to limit lawsuits — it’s to shoot dangerous suspects in the eye.

    And the statement about being “afraid of being sued” wasn’t made as part of a plea for a change in the laws, or in a speech advocating additional immunities for police officers.

    Rather, it was at SWAT conference entitled “Surviving Officer-Involved Shootings and the Aftermath,” where Mr. Chudwin exhorted his audience to USE MORE FORCE, saying “You really have nothing personally to fear from liability when you follow law, policy and procedure”

    Phil (88ab5b)

  21. Phil–
    What are you talking about?

    Penny (8896c0)

  22. Thatincident with the old woman is truly horrible, but the police certainly can’t be blamed for returning fire.

    David Ehrenstein (dea91c)

  23. Phil,
    It’s time for your Haldol.

    lincoln (3ec378)

  24. According to urban legend, some old people will eat dog food for the price difference between Alpo and meat loaf.

    dchamil (21b562)

  25. Phil, how do you feel about Republicans and Pedophiles theory?

    David Moon (8896c0)

  26. dchamil–

    So you are saying we can feed dog food to old people? I like the way you think.

    Mr. Moon,
    Which one are you??

    Penny (8896c0)

  27. Christoph, I can see your point of view, and being in the military, I find one thing true, and hear me out on this one.

    Deployment are a lot like sex with Kobe Bryant… I can kick, punch, and scream to get out of it, but you know what… it’s still gonna happen.

    David Moon (8896c0)

  28. What about like a night with R Kelly. Cold, wet and knowing your were just pissed on.

    Penny (8896c0)

  29. A few years ago at our county fair someone was offering $20:00 for someone to eat a big fat beetle i dont think there were any takers

    krazy kagu (1b5cd8)

  30. There is a website I would recommend everyone checking out :

    Stands for Officers Down Memorial Page. Honorable and moving.

    rightisright (2cbc9b)

  31. This Tennie is just another scam artist, backed by scam artists “Lawyers” playing the race card,he makes me SICK!!! Oh, poor Tennie, you ate a little bit of dog food,what about what you did to the other Firefighters you pranked, as revealed in those photos? You, Tennie, are a HYPOCRITE, a RACIST, & frankly, I think you people like you are part of the problem, NOT the solution. I’ve accidentently eaten dog food, & oh my god!! guess what, I felt stupid, but I GOT OVER IT !!! I suggest you whiny, race-baiting, scam artist 2-faced hypocrite that you do the same, suck it up, be a man for the 1st time in your life, you utterly digust me.

    Dave (ae7c7e)

  32. Everybody hollers racism at every point. Who is loading up our prison, welfare, systems, destroying our schools and large cities? Attacking innocent young girls on Halloween in Long Beach? Type in WICHITA MURDERS on Google to enlighten yourself. Or just open the newspapers every morning.

    Pete (83ff43)

  33. The only way we can show this incident as being a racist one is by Tennie demonstrating that during his 20 years as a fireman there was a pattern of this kind of treatment. If there wasn’t, he’s merely using the one incident to characterize his 20 year career and that is ridiculous.

    Had he complained in the past? Were complaints lodge against the firemen who put the dog food in the spaghetti in the past? Had Tennie done things like this in the past himself?

    In other words, we simply can’t take the one incident by itself. I mean, if there was 20 years of racist incidents and one incident non-racist in character, would we take the one non-racist incident and ignore the 20 years of racist incidents?

    Of course we wouldn’t, but this — in reverse — is what Tennie is asking us to do.

    That’s why it’s clear to me this guy is just looking to hit the jackpot before he retires. I saw the clip of him and you could tell he was lying. His voice was as high-pitched as a girl’s

    This guy is a bum.


    ricland (dbdde6)

  34. patterico,

    thank you for your balanced feedback. i won’t go into details but i have a suit going on, not for discrimination but a valid suit nonetheless. my attorney is a friend of this man’s attorney and my attorney wants to bring his attorney into it (i hope that makes sense). i don’t want media coverage or anything. i read your column from time to time and consider you very fair. if/when my case which i will only say is set to take place in malibu comes up, i will let yoi know how it goes.

    you will know it’s me by my ip address


    leary of everyone

    leary of everyone (2278e0)

  35. poster number 17 they better be afraid cuz it is about to happen again and with dam good reason. that is all i am going to say

    leary of everyone (2278e0)


    ccrinc (8c22d6)

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