Florida police union fights to have Black officer caught on bodycam using racial slur reinstated

Delvin White, a Black high school resource officer, was terminated by the Tampa PD

A police union in Florida said Wednesday it would fight for the job of a Black officer fired after his body camera captured him using a racial slur on two separate occasions to describe students he was sworn to protect. 

Delvin White, a Black school resource officer at Middleton High School, was terminated by the Tampa Police Department on Tuesday for violations of policy that prohibit discriminatory conduct. The City of Tampa Personnel Manual B1.2 Discriminatory Conduct states, in part, that "violation of this policy shall be grounds for immediate dismissal in the absence of extenuating circumstances."

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"Derogatory statements made by police officers jeopardize the trust that our department works to establish with our community," Chief Brian Dugan said in a written statement released Tuesday. "Tampa Police officers are held to a higher standard and incidents like this negatively impact the entire law enforcement profession."

On Nov. 13, 2020, White was on a phone call when his body-worn camera captured him allegedly referencing a group of people using a racial slur, the department said in a public statement.

The officer was driving home from an off-duty assignment and used the racial slur while on the phone with his wife "referring, in a general context, to the students he protects at the school," the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing an internal summary letter sent to Chief Brian Dugan from his command staff.

While under investigation, White informed his supervisor that there was another incident, on Nov. 30, 2020, where he used the same racial slur while arresting a juvenile, the department said. The body camera captured White purportedly using the derogatory language twice while effecting an arrest for trespassing.

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"To me, what’s more troubling is that as a school resource officer, he would talk to a student that way," Dugan said in a separate interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "I look at as a school resource officer as equivalent to a teacher. Would you want a teacher to talk to your son in that manner?"

White told his supervisor that he did not mean to use the word in a derogatory way and said the term is "commonly used in today’s society as a means of shared culture and experiences among the African American community," according to the letter presented to the chief.

But the Tampa Police Benevolent Association defended White, arguing his actions warranted punishment but firing him was too harsh. The union said it would file official grievance paperwork Wednesday to begin the process of appealing his termination.

"We stand with the City of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department in their efforts to stamp out racism in every form and condemn any and all derogatory statements in or out of uniform," spokesman Danny Alvarez said in a statement on the union’s Facebook page. "The facts in the Delvin White matter do not reflect an act or any intent that warrants the punishment he received for his alleged transgression."

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"Officer White is a beloved and trusted member of the East Tampa community that he was raised in and that he protected every day," he added. "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 PBA will file a formal grievance on Officer White’s behalf with the hope and expectation of getting this valued Officer back to work."