Delvin White was fired from his job as a Tampa police officer on March 2 for saying the N-word while on duty.
The incident has sparked some conversations among city leaders about the use of the N-word in the workplace and if “culture” should be taken into consideration.
Bodycam footage from a Nov. 12 incident shows the officer of eight years driving in his police car having a phone conversation with his wife. In this conversation White is overheard using the N-word.
This bodycam footage sparked an investigation which led to the discovery of another incident when White used the N-word toward a student who didn’t want to leave campus after he had been suspended.
“In the second video you see me interacting with a young man,” said White. “I was frustrated with him and you will see I had so much patience with him. I didn’t want to arrest that young man. I know what happens especially with young Black men when they get put in the system so, I did everything I could not to arrest him.”
In the exchange between the student and White you can hear both of them say the N-word but after White was fired, he told Atlanta Black Star that the student said he took no offense to the word. Even still, White was fired pursuant to the B1.2 Discriminatory Conduct Policy.
“It’s just too much,” said White. “I understand you feel like you have to do something; if I would have got suspended for 30 days, I wouldn’t have complained. It’s the fact that it had to go all the way to termination when you received no complaint from anybody in the community.”
White’s former police chief, Brian Dugan, released a statement saying: “Derogatory statements made by police officers jeopardize the trust that our department works to establish with our community. Tampa Police officers are held to a higher standard and incidents like this negatively impact the entire law enforcement profession.”
White was a school resource officer for Middleton High School for three years. He told Atlanta Black Star that he developed relationships with the students, including the one seen arrested on the bodycam footage. He added that in the culture of the area the Black community uses the N-word with no offense intended or taken.
“Yes I did say the N word; it was part of our normal conversation,” said White. “He said it to me first. He had no complaints with it and neither does his mother. I don’t understand why all of this is such a big issue.”
On Tuesday, March 23, his former school, Middleton High, hosted an event in an effort to help him get his job back. Students, staff and parents dressed in all white and met at the school for what they are now calling Officer White Day. The students also created a petition which has over 2,000 signatures.
“I have been disciplined for a minor accident in the vehicle but not any complaints for my job ability. I heard other officers did the same thing and they still have their jobs, I’m hoping I can get back to my kids at Middleton High School,” added White.
The Tampa Police Benevolent Association is looking into past incidences of officers being disciplined under theB1.2 Discriminatory Conduct Policy but not fired — a records search reveals at least two such instances. The police union hopes to bolster its case that White is being treated unfairly by losing his job over the policy violation.
Some city leaders like Robin Lockett, the Tampa Bay regional director for Organize Florida, are speaking up, and many feel a policy put into place to protect Blacks is now being used against an African-American.
“There is a difference between the usage of that word. White America uses ‘er’ and Blacks use ‘ga’,” explained Lockett. “We’ve adhered to society and when to use that word and when not to. But in our communities we say it. It’s a given. You can walk down the street today and you’ll hear somebody using that word.”
Lockett feels that a Black person should be able to say the N-word and a white person should not.
“The policy needs to be revisited,” said Lockett. “We don’t want to be treated equally. We just want to be treated fairly. In order to be treated equally we would have had to be on the same equal ground from the beginning, and we never have. It wraps back around to this policy. For this policy to turn around and hit this young man in the face and he’s Black and you’re talking about building trust in the community with the resources officer — you’re not playing chess, you’re playing checkers, and that’s and issue.”
White wrote an apology letter to his community in hopes of getting his job back. He has filed an appeal with the city’s Civil Service Board.