3 Fort Lauderdale police officers fired, 1 resigns in wake of racist video

Internal investigation launched in October

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Fort Lauderdale Police Department held a news conference Friday afternoon regarding four police officers who were the subjects of an internal investigation regarding racially charged exchanges.

The officers have been identified as Alex Alvarez, 22; James Wells, 29; Jason Holding, 31; and Christopher Sousa, 25.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley announced the termination of Wells, Holding and Sousa at the beginning of his statements. He said Alvarez resigned in bad standing with the police department during the investigation, and said Alvarez would have been fired had he not resigned.

All four men received a letter from the police department on Friday that stated, "On October 16, 2014, an allegation was made to the Office of Internal Affairs that indicated you acted and communicated in a racist manner by distributing text message communication to your coworkers using disparaging and offensive terminology. Additionally you authored text messages that maligned your coworkers."

According to Adderley, Alvarez's ex-fiance brought forth a racially charged video that Alvarez had made, and said that she had seen racist text messages sent between Alvarez and the other officers.

"I want to thank the complainant, knowing that this was a trying time for her, and I thank her for doing the right thing," said Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman.

Adderley said all four officers were immediately removed from having contact with the public, and said they claimed the video was a joke.

The video, which was made to seem like a movie trailer entitled "The Hoods," consisted of many racist depictions, including a photo of President Barack Obama with gold teeth, someone wearing a KKK hood and a black man being attacked by a dog.  

In one of the group text messages sent by Sousa the officer wrote, "Holdings we are coming and drinking all your beer and killing (expletive)."

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he was "disgusted" and "shocked" by the exchanges.

"Nobody up here will defend that video," said Seiler. "What I will defend is the prompt and decisive action by the police department saying they will not tolerate this type of behavior."

Seiler said the investigation took several months, as investigators made sure no other officers were involved in the video.

Alvarez and Wells, who was named officer of the month in June 2014, were relieved from duty with pay on Oct. 17 and Holding and Sousa were assigned to desk work.

Alvarez was hired by the police department in June 2012, Wells had been with the force since March 2010, Holding since Jan. 2012 and Sousa since April 2010.

A woman with the NAACP was in attendance at the news conference. She told Local 10 News that the NAACP has been well aware of the video's existence for some time.

"This is absolutely upsetting, and I don't think people truly understand the implication of thought and ideas that go into making a video like this," said Dream Defender Jasmen Rivers. "These people find it humorous to have dogs attacking African Americans. How do you think that frames their interactions with people?"

Shortly after the news conference the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Sgt. Jack Lokeinsky, released a statement.

"The Fraternal Order of Police is a multicultural organization which does not tolerate racism.   Our officers take great pride in our commitment to diversity. Our dedicated officers have positive relationships with residents in every community we serve," said Lokeinsky. "Everyone is entitled to due process and these officers have the right to a fair review of the facts.  I cannot comment on the specifics of this case as I have not had the opportunity to review the file."

Sources told local 10 News that in light of the extremely offensive nature of the video, the police department and fire departments have been placed on alert with numerous officers standing by for overtime duty.

This is just the latest scab on the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which has been highly criticized for one of its officer's use of force after cellphone video showed him slap a homeless man and knock him to the ground.

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About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.