A Fort Lauderdale Police officer fired for allegedly sending racist text messages and a video testified Friday at a hearing where he's trying to get his job back.
James Wells was fired last March along with officers Christopher Sousa and Jason Holding following an extensive internal affairs investigation into the distribution of the racist materials. A fourth officer, Alex Alvarez, resigned during the course of the investigation and would have been fired, Police Chief Frank Adderly said at the time.
But Wells, 31, says he never should have been fired. With his lawyer by his side, he plead his case in front of an arbitrator, admitting he used the N-word while discussing the "worst criminals."
"The worst of the criminals, not a specific race, not a specific gender, but just the worst of the worst," he said.
Wells added that he would hear his colleagues who were African-American using the N-word, but said he would never refer to them using the word.
According to a police report on the firings, the officers criticized co-workers' appearance and work ethic, and they "exchanged text messages that included derogatory comments towards Hispanics and homosexuals." The inappropriate material included images of President Barack Obama and fellow Fort Lauderdale Police officers, the report said.
Alvarez's ex-fiance reportedly released the text messages after a nasty breakup. Wells said he expected the messages to be private.
During cross examination Friday, attorney Eugene Pettis, who's representing the City of Fort Lauderdale, asked Wells when it is okay to call a citizen the N-word.
"If you're referring to a person, we'll call this person a bad guy, we'll even call him a white guy, if I refer to him as that word, I don't think there's a problem with it," Wells said.
Pettis pointed out there were no "white guys" in this particular case.
More than 40 cases linked to the four officers have been dropped, according to the Broward State Attorney's Office.
The arbitrator is expected to make a decision in about 30 days.