A San Jose policeman fired for unleashing an ostensibly anti-Black Lives Matter tirade on Twitter a year-and-a-half ago has issued a public apology.
Officer Phillip White, whose union got him rehired earlier this year, appeared before the City Council on Tuesday for a closed-session review of his reinstatement.
The day before, he sent a letter to city officials expressing remorse for the “lapse in judgment” that led to him to tweet about using his “duty to kill” anyone who threatened his family.
“I’m now asking the community I serve to forgive me and judge on my entire life’s work and contributions to our city’s well-being and not solely on the few minutes where I did not exhibit the best judgment,” he wrote to city leaders. “I made a mistake and for that I am sorry.”
White—a 19-year SJPD veteran—got canned in October but successfully appealed his termination.
Four months later, he won his job back despite community backlash, as well as Police Chief Eddie Garcia and Mayor Sam Liccardo’s public denouncements. In Tuesday’s closed session, however, the council decided to let White keep his job.
White’s social media rants became national news in December 2014 amid protests against grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for killing unarmed black men in Ferguson and New York.
“Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you,” read one of White’s tweets, which he closed with #CopsLivesMatter.
A follow-up tweet read: “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.”
Civil rights groups in the South Bay launched a campaign to kick White off the force, urging the public to demand City Hall #FireWhiteNow. When he got his job back a few months ago, Silicon Valley De-Bug filed a legal challenge against his reinstatement.
In an interview with NBC Bay Area, White said he wrote those tweets in response to direct threats against his family. Still, he acknowledged, he regrets ever sending them. Monday’s letter may be his first public apology, he wrote, but it won’t be his last.
“I am well aware of the long road ahead of me as I move towards rebuilding community relationships that I have worked so hard to develop in my 19 years of service in this city,” he wrote.
In his letter, he said he embarrassed himself with those tweets, which also hurt family, colleagues and the community.
“I will work every single day to earn back any trust I may have broken with the residents I have sworn to protect and serve,” he concluded, “and my colleagues within the San Jose Police Department.”