Tampa, FL – A Tampa school resource officer (SRO) who was fired after bodycam footage caught him using a racial slur was given his job back on Monday.
While under investigation for that incident, which was captured by his bodycam, Officer White confessed that he also previously used the “n-word” twice during an arrest on Nov. 30, 2020.
The eight-year department veteran was assigned as a Middleton High School SRO at the time of the investigation.
The TPD’s investigation into Officer White was launched late last year after a random audit of bodycam footage, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
During the investigation, Officer White told his supervisor that he never intended for his words to be derogatory, according to the paper.
He said he used the racial slur because it is “commonly used in today’s society as a means of shared culture and experiences among the African American community,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Officer White was subsequently fired by Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan for violating TPD’s “discriminatory conduct” policy, WFLA reported.
“This isn’t about racism, this is about professionalism,” Chief Dugan told the Tampa Civil Service Board on Monday during a hearing on Officer White’s push to get his job back. “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.”
Chief Dugan noted the city’s personnel manual specifically prohibits workers from using racial slurs, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Violation of the policy “shall be grounds for immediate dismissal in the absence of extenuating circumstances,” the manual reads.
Chief Dugan said he has to be consistent in sanctioning officers who violate the city’s discriminatory language policy.
“Derogatory statements made by police officers jeopardize the trust that our department works to establish with our community,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told WFLA in March. “Tampa Police officers are held to a higher standard and incidents like this negatively impact the entire law enforcement profession.”
Officer White had an exemplary history of service with the department prior to his firing, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
He launched programs to help make the school campus safer and cleaner, and went out of his way to mentor teens at the school.
“He understood where they came from and tried his best to help them understand that they don’t need to be a product of their environment,” former Middleton High School teacher Kristina Ravenel told the board.
The Civil Service Board voted 3-to-0 on Monday to immediately reinstate Officer White, the Tamp Bay Times reported.
He will not receive any backpay.
The board noted that Chief Dugan had just cause to fire the veteran officer for the policy violation, but determined actually terminating his employment was too harsh of a penalty, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“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 during the hearing. “It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Officer White, who returned to work Tuesday, told the Tampa Bay Times that he “was made to be an SRO.”
Chief Dugan said he still stands by his decision to fire Officer White, but that he respects the board’s decision and will work with his executive staff to figure out the returning officer’s duty assignment.
“Clearly he has a passion for the students and they have a passion for him, and that will be taken into account,” the chief told the Tampa Bay Times.