Fired Fort Lauderdale cop will not get job back after exchanging racist text messages
3 officers fired, 1 resigns after internal affairs investigation
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A former Fort Lauderdale police officer who was fired for exchanging racist text messages with several other officers will not get his job back, according to an arbitration decision report obtained Tuesday by Local 10 News.
According to the report, James Wells was notified March 20, 2015, about his termination in a letter signed by Police Chief Frank Adderley.
"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 racial terminology. Additionally, you authored text messages that maligned your coworkers. After review of all the evidence, your actions constitute a violation of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Policies and Procedures manual section 118E (12) H 'Engaging in conduct prejudicial to the good order of the department' and 118E (12) D 'Conduct unbecoming a police officer,'" Adderley wrote.
"Your conduct is inexcusable and jeopardizes the public's trust in our agency," Adderley continued. "Not only did you demonstrate a lack of integrity and poor judgment, your actions confirmed a disregard for Department policies and procedures."
According to Adderley, another officer's ex-fiancee brought forth a video that Officer Alex Alvarez allegedly made and said that she had seen racist text messages sent between Alvarez, Wells and two other officers.
Wells testified at his arbitration hearing in February that the texts were taken out of context.
"Give me a context where you think it's OK to call someone from the city of Fort Lauderdale the N word?" Eugene Pettis, an attorney for the city, asked.
"If you're referring to a person, we'll call this person a bad guy and we'll even call him a white guy. If I refer to him as that word, I don't think there's a problem with it," Wells said.
"We don't have any white guys that you're referring to in this particular case, do we?" Pettis asked.
"In this particular case, no," Wells said.
Wells also claimed that he had a right to privacy in communicating with his fellow officers.
"He is correct, but only to the extent that any person has such a right," the report said. "Wells had no legal right to assume that the texts would not be read by someone outside his circle, or to have a guarantee they would remain private after transmission (versus during transmission)."
Wells and two other officers were fired after the internal affairs investigation was finished and Alvarez resigned.
Wells is the first to go through the arbitration process.
"The City of Fort Lauderdale respects the appeals process and supports the decision of the arbitrator," Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and City Manager Lee Feldman said in a statement. "As we have said all along, the actions of this individual are in no way reflective of the outstanding work being done by the more than 500 men and women of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our neighbors. Today's ruling reinforces the actions we have taken to appropriately and decisively address this situation."
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