San Jose cop who taunted Black Lives Matter protesters on Twitter gets job back

Black Lives Matter

Activists with Black Lives Matter protest in Los Angeles in June. The person on the left is holding a photograph of Ezell Ford, who was killed by L.A. police officers on Aug. 11, 2014.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A San Jose police officer who fulminated against Black Lives Matter and Ferguson protesters via Twitter has been given his job back after the city fired him last year, officials said.

An independent arbitrator reinstated Phil White, the San Jose Police Department announced in a statement issued Thursday. He will be assigned to administrative duties and will assist in rolling out the department’s body camera program, officials said.

“While the City and Department disagree with the Arbitrator’s conclusion, we respect the process and will move forward with reinstatement,” Acting Police Chief Eddie Garcia said in a statement.

In October, the Police Department confirmed that White was no longer working for the city, but declined to elaborate on the reason for his departure.


Police officers who successfully complete probation can appeal any discipline imposed on them, Garcia said. In those instances, an officer may have an arbitrator decide whether the discipline should have been imposed.

“The department recognizes that the individual character and excellence of each department member reflects upon the department,” the police chief said. “Therefore the department will continue to expect each of its members to maintain a high ethical standard and provide equitable treatment for all its citizens.”

White was placed on leave for his tweets, which came at the height of nationwide protests stemming from the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.

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At the time, thousands of protesters were demonstrating over the deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers. On social media, protesters used the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter -- an organized movement founded by three women.

White deleted his tweets, but they were captured by BuzzFeed and the San Jose Mercury News.

One read: “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter”

“By the way if anyone feels they can’t breathe or their lives matter I’ll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun.”

The “can’t breathe” in White’s tweet referred to Garner’s last words before he died after a New York police officer took him to the ground with a chokehold. After Garner’s death, protesters chanted, “I can’t breathe.”

At the time, then-Police Chief Larry Esquivel publicly condemned the tweets and the San Jose Police Officers’ Assn. said White’s tweets were disrespectful.

“Offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate social media comments have no place in the public discourse surrounding the tragic loss of life from recent officer-involved incidents,” the union’s statement read.

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