By Erika Pesantes
March 23–The FBI’s civil rights division will meet this week with Fort Lauderdale police officials after an internal investigation led to the firing of three police officers over racial slurs used in text messages and a mock movie trailer.
A fourth police officer, who created the video titled “The Hoods,” resigned before the completion of the five-month Internal Affairs investigation, authorities said.
The FBI has launched an inquiry into the investigation.
“It’s nothing more than an inquiry right now,” Mayor Jack Seiler told the Sun Sentinel on Sunday. “I’m happy they want to review what [the police department] did. I have no concerns with how this was handled. We want to handle it in a very transparent manner.
“I welcome an inquiry from any outside group that has authority. I think it would be productive,” he said. “We’re very confident, and I’ll emphasize this, that we did a very thorough and complete review. In fact, that’s one of the reasons it took so much time.”
The officers who were fired were James Wells, 30; Jason Holding, 31; and Christopher Sousa, 25. Officer Alex Alvarez, 22, resigned in late January before the investigation was completed.
Officials say Alvarez created the mock movie trailer that included scenes of a Ku Klux Klan member, a doctored image of President Barack Obama with gold teeth and another image depicting what appears to be a police dog attacking a black man.
Among the texts the officers shared were: “I’d have that noose ready,” “F cuban elite,” and “Holdings we are coming and drinking all your beer and killing n.” According to the report released Friday, the texts also made disparaging remarks about Hispanics, gays and fellow officers.
The officers were assigned to patrol Fort Lauderdale’s predominantly black neighborhoods.
During interviews with investigators, Wells, Holding and Sousa said that they did not harbor racist views. Alvarez left the department before making formal statements to investigators. The police department has identified Alvarez and Sousa as Hispanic and Holding and Wells as white.
An FBI official Sunday would not elaborate on the extent of the FBI’s inquiry into the police department’s internal affairs investigation.
“We’ll be meeting with them this week to determine what their level of involvement will be,” Police Chief Frank Adderley, who is black, said on “Facing South Florida” on Sunday morning. “We welcome the FBI to come in.”
Other federal inquiries may also be on the horizon. The Broward County chapter of the NAACP called on the Justice Department to investigate.
“We will also ask that the officers involved be investigated for possible civil rights or criminal charges,” Marsha Ellison, president of the county National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement Friday.
“This is about restoring the trust. … this breaks the bonds that we have with our community and we want to make sure we restore the bonds, restore the trust and we keep that relationship strong,” Seiler said on “Facing South Florida.”
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