San Jose Police officer receives backlash after reinstatement

Jesse Castro,

The San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP held a community rally to announce the submission of a court challenge to Officer Phillip White’s reinstatement to the San Jose Police Department.

Officer White returned to the department after a private arbitration where an independent official determined that White’s threatening comments toward #BlackLivesMatter were not a sufficient cause to fire him, according to NBC Bay Area News.

San Jose Mercury News reported that White was put on paid leave before he was fired last October.

White found himself in the midst of controversy at the end 2014 for his comments on Twitter which referenced #BlackLivesMatter and Eric Garner, who died as a result of a chokehold from NYPD in July of that same year.

“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,” tweeted White in Dec. 2014.

White references Eric Garner who repeated, “I can’t breathe,” as a New York officer held him in the chokehold which contributed to his death.

San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP and Silicon Valley De-Bug, an organization which leads community based campaigns related to issues impacting the Bay Area, responded to Officer White’s comments with a petition to remove him from the San Jose Police Department.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#494949″]”The city can’t just sit around and feel powerless like they can’t do something about it”[/mks_pullquote]

The first petition held more than 15,000 signatures before it was submitted to the San Jose Superior Court in 2015 and remains available to be signed online. A second petition was created last month for a court challenge to White’s reinstatement in early February. This petition collected more than 300 signatures before Nick Emanuel, an attorney for the San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP, submitted it on Feb. 24.

“The city can’t just sit around and feel powerless like they can’t do something about it,” said Fernando Perez, media coordinator for Silicon Valley De-Bug.

Silicon Valley De-Bug has dedicated time to finding as much information as possible about White’s appeal because the private arbitration process provides confidentiality for information in the appeal proceedings. All San Jose police officers, firefighters and public servants have the option to appeal in a private arbitration, but open-government advocates — who support transparency in government action — say it prevents citizens from holding police accountable for misconduct because it keeps information out of public record.

“It’s a tough thing to swallow when the decision rests in the hands of one individual behind closed doors,” said Perez. “It makes clear how un-transparent they are.”

Silicon Valley/San Jose NAACP President, Rev. Jeff Moore, said he would have preferred to see a public apology from Officer White that would have addressed the people directly instead of the closed arbitration which he believes damages the ties between the community and the police department.

“It really hurts the relationship with the police and the transparency that they are supposed to operate with,” said Moore. “He’s supposed to be a role model for children.”

Although White has been assigned administrative duties and will no longer be on patrol, Moore still expressed deep concerns over his return to the police department.

“He’ll still be driving to and from work and he’ll still have a gun in his possession the whole time,” said Moore. “Any type of misconduct and the city could be sued. He’s a liability who should stay off the force.”