What is the most effective way to show you are accepting of all racial minorities? Start dating one of them — or at least that is what a Florida cop, currently caught up in a racist texting scandal with his fellow colleagues, seems to think.
Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Jason Holding appeared this week at an arbitration hearing, a form of dispute resolution with the involvement of an independent third party, to get his job back. While he admitted the texts he sent and received “were inexcusable, in poor taste, a sign of bad judgment and displayed a pattern of racist behavior,” he also asserted that he is definitely not a racist.
To prove his point, he even brought along his girlfriend, who just by chance happens to be African-American, to testify.
“There are people that make mistakes. There are people that say things that they didn’t mean,” said Perpetua Michel. “He’s a cop he shouldn’t have said that word, correct.”
She said she has known Holding for about four years but they only began dating about a year ago, after the allegations against him surfaced.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department fired Holding, along with fellow cops Chris Sousa and James Wells, in March 2015. The fourth officer involved in the texting ring, Alex Alvarez, resigned from the force while Holding and Wells filed for arbitration; Wells lost his case in May.
“I am not a racist, I have never been a racist, I’ll never be a racist,” Holding testified on Tuesday, holding back tears and choking up on his words. “That is not who I am. It's just not what's in my heart. I've always treated everyone with respect and dignity.”
The texts reportedly included frequent use of the N-word and racial insults about Hispanics and gays. Alvarez had even created a fake movie trailer showing President Barack Obama with a gold tooth and gold chain, a police dog biting a black man, someone dressed in a KKK robe and a wanted poster for “an escaped slave.”
“This is pure hatred and racism. It is obviously morally repugnant, and we cannot have this in our community,” said Marsha Ellison, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Holding claims he was desensitized to some of the racist terms he used in the texts because he used to patrol African-American neighborhoods where he allegedly heard people say these things all the all the time.
“Somehow you got desensitized. I don't understand that,” attorney Eugene Pettis, representing the city, asked. “How is it when you go home, you know how to behave?”
Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley criticized the officers for their racist behavior. He also made it clear that there is “zero tolerance” for racist attitudes on the police force.
“It's a 24/7 job,” he said. “On duty, off duty, whatever you do, once it comes to light, you're a police officer. Everyone is going to look at your actions.”