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Friday March 20, 2015
Three Florida police officers were fired and a fourth resigned after a five-month internal affairs investigation into racist text messages sent from their personal phones. Exchanging a series of racially offensive text messages and a video that portrayed President Barack Obama in a derogatory way, Fort Lauderdale police said.
Officers, Jason Holding, Christopher Sousa, and James Wells were fired on Friday, and a fourth, Officer Alex Alvarez, resigned from his post in late January before the investigation was finished. Alex Alvarez resigned but authorities said that he would have been fired had he not done so.
The four sent messages to each other which included nasty comments against gays and Hispanics, along with sexist, racist and ethnically inappropriate pictures and messages.
Alvarez also took things to the next level when he created a fake movie trailer, “The Hoods”. The video contained images of President Barack Obama depicted wearing a gold chain and gold tooth caps, along with an unidentified person someone wearing a Ku Klux Klansman’s hood. The video also showed a black man being bitten by a police dog; a bloody scene with a wanted poster for “an escaped slave.”
According to the Sun-Sentinal, the four Fort Lauderdale Police officers patrolled a predominately black neighborhood.
Although the officers didn’t participate in criminal activity, Police Chief Frank Adderley, who is black, stated at the press conference:
“Their conduct was inexcusable and there is zero tolerance for this kind of behavior in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department”.
In the text message exchanges, the former officers used racially derogatory terms to refer to people they encountered while on duty, included racially insensitive material from the film, "Django Unchained," and talked about getting drunk and "killing n*****," according to investigative documents.
The men allegedly criticized co-workers, including African-Americans, making crude comments about their grammar, appearance and work ethic. One message referred to an entire shift as "lazy f****," the documents state.
"There was no criminal behavior detected during this investigation, however, the four officers' conduct was inexcusable and there is zero tolerance for this kind of behavior in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department," Chief Franklin Adderley told reporters.
In a statement, the Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police said the officers deserve their due process.
"The Fraternal Order of Police is a multicultural organization which does not tolerate racism," the group's president, Jack Lokeinsky, said in the statement.
"Our officers take great pride in our commitment to diversity. Our dedicated officers have positive relationships with residents in every community we serve."
"I am very disappointed, disgusted and shocked by this incident," Mayor Jack Seiler said.
"The inappropriate racist behavior exhibited by those involved is unacceptable and reprehensible, it violates the trust we place in our law enforcement officers, it damages the bond we have established in our community and undermines the standards in which each and every city employee is held accountable," Mayor Jack Seiler said at a news conference.
The investigation started after an ex-girlfriend of Alvarez emailed screenshots of the messages to Adderley on Oct. 16.
The woman told police she thought their behavior was wrong, but feared he would hurt her if she told anyone. After the 10-month relationship ended, she went to the authorities.
Some of the text messaged included:
Holding: “Id have that noose ready”
“The panty dropper had it’s first fail. This chick was high class cuban, nada impressed her. F
—— cuban elite”
“I had a wet dream that you two found those two n—— in the VW and gave them the death penalty right there on the spot.”
Alvarez: “Jimmy what would big dad do to that n—–. Get that n—– out from under that wagon.”
Wells: “And that n—– lover in the wagon.”
Holding was recently disciplined with a two-day suspension for mishandling property of a suspect.
The FBI has begun looking into the case of four Florida police officers who were accused of exchanging text messages and a video Containing racist slurs and violent imagery, the
Sun Sentinel newspaper reported on Sunday.
The Sun Sentinel reported on Sunday that the FBI's civil rights division has launched what was described as an inquiry into the allegations.
The FBI will meet with police department officials in Fort Lauderdale this week, according to the Sun Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler told the Sun Sentinel that the FBI has only launched an inquiry into the Fort Lauderdale investigation, not a full probe of its own.
The three officers who were fired told the department's internal investigators they do not hold racist views, according to the Sun Sentinel.
April 2, 2015
At a meeting earlier this week the Fort Lauderdale Police Department dropped a bombshell.
The racist video and racist text messages exchanged by four police officers would not cause those officers to lose their law enforcement certifications.
It all boils down to whether or not what the officers did is on a list of moral character violations.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement handles law enforcement certification.
They shared a list with CBS4 News. It does not appear there is anything in the state statute that fits what these officers are accused of doing.
Community activist Roosevelt Walters is incredulous.
“If this doesn’t rise to that occasion, I don’t know what would,” he told CBS4’s Carey Codd.
Walters said he also cannot understand why the City of Fort Lauderdale hasn’t sent the internal affairs documents to FDLE to let them review the case and see the allegations about the video and texts for themselves.
“If they haven’t got the paperwork, what do we expect them to do?” Walter said.
Mayor Jack Seiler said the police department has every intention of sharing the details of their internal affairs investigation with FDLE. But he believes that no matter the outcome, this video and the texts mean those four officers have very little chance of being hired anywhere.
“There ought to be something in the state law that says these gentlemen are ineligible to serve when they express beliefs and thoughts and prejudices that they expressed in this case,” Mayor Jack Seiler said.
An FDLE spokesperson told CBS4 News that they will review any documents they receive from Fort Lauderdale police but that if the offense is not covered by this list of moral character violations, the officers will likely not face punishment.
FDLE said at this point there are no disciplinary cases on any of the four Fort Lauderdale police officers involved in this matter.
April 12, 2015
April 12, 2015
Nearly three dozen cases against black defendants have been dropped in the wake of four Fort Lauderdale police officers being exposed as racists, the Sun-Sentinel reports.
A spokesman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office told the Sun-Sentinel:
All the defendants were black; all the cases were dropped because at least one of the officers was the principal officer involved in the arrest. This is a serious matter. We continue to review each case in which these former policemen were the principal officers involved in the arrest. We are dropping charges against the defendants where it is appropriate.”
If more racist cops were exposed, if we were somehow able to root them out and review their arrests, how many unjust cases against black defendants would be dropped nationwide?
How many black people are facing jail time right now because of systemic racism?
MAY 24, 2016
An arbiter has upheld the city's firing last year of Officer James Wells over racist text messages he sent on his personal cellphone in conversations with other police officers, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Wells was the first of the fired officers to have his case go to arbitration, with testimony presented to arbiter Carey Fischer in February.
"Whether he was joking, jiving, or just using epithets to describe criminal elements, his use of such words for either amusement or personal entertainment amongst friends, does not rise to the level of constitutional protection," Fischer wrote in his ruling released Tuesday.
"Although made in a private setting (that became public), such comments arguably suggest a bias or prejudice against the very citizens that Wells interacted with on a daily basis."
In a joint statement, Mayor Jack Seiler and City Manager Lee Feldman stressed "the actions of this individual are in no way reflective of the outstanding work being done" by the city's police officers. They said the arbiter's decision "reinforces the actions we have taken to appropriately and decisively address this situation."
Fischer wrote what started off as "seemingly private text messages amongst friends" could not be hidden by the city and "the greater community (and the world) would become aware" of them.
Officers Jason Holding and Christopher Sousa have also challenged their firings. There was no action taken against the fourth officer, Alex Alvarez, but officials said he would have been fired had he still been on the force.
Fischer dismissed Wells' contention that the texts were illegally intercepted. Fischer said they were retrieved after being stored and not as they were being sent. Fischer also said Wells had "no legal right" to expect they would remain private after they were sent.
While there was no criminal activity involved, Adderley said in his dismissal letters that the officers' actions were "inexcusable and jeopardizes the public's trust of our agency" and "demonstrate a lack of integrity and poor judgment."
Members of the city's Citizens Police Review Board did not think the investigation went far enough, saying investigators were too easy on the questioning of other officers and too quick to give them the benefit of the doubt.
In a separate case last year, Adderley recommended the firing of another officer, 20-year veteran Jeffery Feldewert, who called African-Americans "hoodrats" in a Facebook posting.
A Facebook profile picture used by Feldewert showed a skull wrapped in an American flag, a Fort Lauderdale police badge on its forehead and included a portion of the words "SAVAGE HUNTER."
City Manager Lee Feldman ended up reducing Feldewert's discipline to a one-week suspension, concluding "the actual matter, evaluated with the officer's record, did not warrant termination."
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