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Fort Lauderdale's firing of officer over racist texts upheld in arbitration

Former police officer Jason Holding fails to convince arbiter

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Jason Holding and another former Fort Lauderdale police officer challenged the city's decision to fire them over racists text messages. But they didn't get their way. 

Arbiter James Reynolds upheld the city's move to fire Holding. His decision was released on Friday. Holding's colleague James Wells lost his case in May. 

The text messages included a person wearing a Ku Klux Klan white robe, a wanted poster for "an escaped slave" and a man in a Nazi uniform. There was also a video of a police dog biting a black man. 

In his decision, Reynolds classified Holding's comments as racist, racially offensive and demeaning.

Holding's testimony during arbitration: "I'm not a racist, never have been a racist. I will never be a racist."

Holding joined the department in 2012. The text messages became public in 2015. 

Christopher Sousa was another police officer fired over the text messages, but he didn't challenge the city in arbitration. Alex Alvarez, a police officer involved with the messages, resigned. 

The case began October 2014 when Alvarez's ex-girlfriend Priscilla Perez reported him to Police Chief Frank Adderley. Perez told him the "information has not been sent to the media yet," according to a case report. 

Major Karen Dietrich later reported to Adderley that some of the information in the case had been "leaked out to the community."

The March 2015 findings of the internal affairs' investigation prompted the Broward State Attorney's Office to dismiss several cases. The city also settled a lawsuit claiming Wells and Sousa punched a man during an arrest, because he was black. It cost the city some $55,000. 

A statement released by Chaz Adams, the city's public affairs manager, on behalf of Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, said the case is not indicative of the exemplary work done by the men and women of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.  

"Fort Lauderdale remains committed to strengthening the close bonds that exist between our community and our police department," the statement said. City officials "will continue to work cooperatively with our neighbors to promote tolerance, acceptance, peace and unity."


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