The community is sticking by a Black Tampa police officer who was fired earlier this month for using the n-word while arresting a student and referring to others as “ghetto n*****s” reported the Tampa Bay Times.
In a story News Onyx published on March 5, Officer Delvin White, who worked as a resource officer at Middleton High School for three years, was fired after his body camera caught him using the racial slur twice with students and later on the phone with his wife.
White’s firing sent shockwaves throughout the student body at Middleton, among parents and a local community organization– with most supporting him in his quest to be reinstated.
Middleton sophomore J’Lyn Green, 16, who called White “good people,” told Tampa Bay Times, “He shouldn’t have used it, but the punishment shouldn’t have gone that far.”
Green’s mother Lavetta Sexil agrees and points to the rapport White had with her son and how he helped J’Lyn stay on track.
“He treats them like they’re his very own kids. When J’Lyn went to high school, we had an issue where we thought he was skipping,” Sexil said. “Officer White kept a close eye on him and if he wasn’t in class, he would let me know. We need officers like Officer White in our community.”
Middleton’s former principal, Kim Moore, also came to White’s defense and acknowledged him as one of the best officers the school had during her tenure and says she never saw him disrespect students in any way.
“Good SROs build relationships with students, so when they have to interact with students, it’s from a position of, ‘I care for you, I’m here for you, I’m not here to harm you and I want to avoid having you enter the system.’ And I believe Officer White did that,” Moore said.
The Hillsboro NAACP has also lent its support to White. Yvette Lewis, president of the chapter said they have been getting a lot of calls from parents and others in the community wanting the organization to do something about the matter.
Lewis expressed a desire for the Tampa Police Department to look at White’s case in a more nuanced manner and the use of the word “holistically.” She pointed out the contextual difference between the use of the word by a white person versus the use by a Black person and said White’s use was not as serious an offense.
Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan, however, maintained his position that White had to be fired. He said White’s use of the word “ghetto,” in reference to students in his care troubled him. He also said that firing officers over the use of the n-word had to be “colorblind.”
“People need to understand I can’t fire a white officer and not fire a Black officer for saying that,” Dugan said. “If you’re going to go for restorative punishment for him, you have to do it for everyone in the future, no matter what color they are.