By Joshua Rhett Miller
A black Florida police officer who lost his job after being caught saying the N-word multiple times has gotten his job back.
Delvin White, who was fired by Tampa police in March, returned to work Tuesday after the city’s Civil Service Board voted 3-0 Monday that firing the school resource officer for using the slur on two occasions was too harsh, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
White, an eight-year department vet who formerly worked at Middleton High School, was reinstated effectively immediately with no back pay.
“I do not want to see the city lose an employee like that who obviously does his job above and beyond — a difficult job in, let’s face it, very difficult circumstances,” board member Charlotte Hursey said. “It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
White was terminated by Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan after bodycam footage revealed that he used the slur several times on two occasions in November, including during a phone call with his wife. He also used the N-word while arresting a black student at the high school who allegedly refused to leave campus, the newspaper reported.
“This isn’t about racism, this is about professionalism,” Dugan said at Monday’s hearing. “Officer White isn’t playing golf with his frat brothers, he’s not playing poker, he’s wearing the uniform of a Tampa Police Department officer and speaking to a student that way.”
Dugan said the city’s personnel manual prohibits the use of racial slurs. Violating the policy is grounds for dismissal in the “absence of extenuating circumstances,” the newspaper reported.
But White’s attorney said the officer mentored children at the school and started programs to improve safety and make the campus cleaner. He also insisted that the case had several mitigating factors, including White’s lack of serious disciplinary infractions and otherwise outstanding job performance.
White, for his part, admitted that using the slur was a mistake, but claimed his “poor choice of words” to the student was an attempt to connect with him. The reinstated officer said he hoped to return to Middleton High School or keep working as a school resource officer elsewhere.
“I was made to be an SRO,” a smiling White told the newspaper after the hearing.
Tampa’s police union issued a statement in March backing White one day after he was fired, saying he was a “beloved and trusted” member of the department.
“Despite his misstep, throughout the investigation, private citizens and other individuals associated with his school contacted the Chief of Police lending their support and reflecting their admiration for his character and contributions,” the Tampa Police Benevolent Association said.
America is a Great Country in which to live.