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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Citizens Police Review Board is recommending that the Fort Lauderdale Police Department reopen its investigation into the case involving officers who made and shared a racist video and racist text messages.
That recommendation now goes to the city manager, Lee Feldman, and he will ultimately decide whether the case gets reopened.
The punishment doled out to the officers involved will not change but there are questions about whether those officers could work again as police in Florida.
The case centers around a video that police say was made by Officer Alex Alvarez, featuring images of the KKK, demeaning photos of President Barack Obama and pictures of violence perpetrated against blacks. Alvarez resigned and three other officers who were sent the video and participated in racist text exchanges – Officers Chris Sousa, James Wells and Jason Holding – were fired.
One board member, Roosevelt Walters, had a direct statement for Police Chief Franklin Adderley.
“It should not stop with these officers,” he said. “That’s not where this whole thing should stop.”
The board – like member and Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Nina Justice – made it clear they believe the Internal Affairs investigation into the mock movie trailer made by Alvarez did not probe deeply enough into the potential actions of other officers like one officer who saw the video and spoke to Alvarez about it.
“One of the officers was aware of the video and merely confronted the officer as opposed to reporting to a superior officer,” Justice said.
Board members were also angry when they learned from Fort Lauderdale Police that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement did not determine the officers’ actions to be a moral character violation. That means the officers would not lose their law enforcement certification.
“If the officers’ actions was egregious enough to be fired, then it certainly is egregious enough to have a review of their certification so that they don’t go to another police force in the State of Florida or elsewhere and do the same thing all over again,” said Skeet Jernigan.
The board also heard from Fort Lauderdale Officer Dellica Harris, who wondered what the department would do to keep her and her family safe.
“This thing is bigger than just these four officers dealing with the citizens,” she said. “Now not only are the citizens not safe what about me?”
Internal affairs investigators pushed back against some of the board’s statements, saying they did a thorough investigation which led them to Alvarez who resigned before he could be questioned and the three others. However, one high ranking officer did admit in the meeting that the department has lost a lot of trust with the community over this.
Also Monday, CBS4 News heard the audio interview given by officer Alvarez’s former fiance to internal affairs investigators, which blew the lid off the entire episode. Priscilla Perez said she spoke up after seeing the video on Alvarez’s phone and was appalled by the images.
“I always wanted to send it,” Perez told police. “I knew it was something wrong that was occurring and actions that he was proceeding to do but I was just afraid for my life that if I would bring it up to you guys, our relationship would end and he would threaten to hurt me.”
The former girlfriend told investigators that Alvarez was proud of the video.
“He said, ‘Oh it’s so funny. It’s my greatest creation yet,'” she said.
Perez said Alvarez made his racist feelings clear, not only with the video but with his lack of concern for the black people he encountered while protecting and serving the residents of Fort Lauderdale.
“It was just crazy to me the way they were referring to those people and to the black people,” she said. “And the name calling and how they said, what I’m gonna do on my day off is drink (epithet) blood.”
The NAACP has called for an investigation, the FBI is asking questions and Broward prosecutors are reviewing arrests made by the officers to see if there was misconduct. Alvarez’s former girlfriend said the officer boasted about often letting white people he pulled over go while referring to the black people he served as “savages.” She said her intent in coming forward with the video and messages was to create change.
“For the racism to stop,” she told Internal Affairs. “For the name calling to stop. To make sure that everyone is getting equal treatment.”