SAN JOSE — A San Jose police officer placed on leave after posting threatening tweets aimed at anti-police brutality protesters has been put back on the force with a desk job, police announced Thursday.
An independent arbitrator reinstated Officer Phil White in opposition to the city and the department’s wishes, according to a news release issued by San Jose Police.
“While the City and Department disagree with the Arbitrator’s conclusion, we respect the process and will move forward with reinstatement,” Acting Chief of Police Eddie Garcia said in a statement. “The Department recognizes that the individual character and excellence of each Department member reflects upon the Department. 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 posted and deleted two tweets on his private Twitter account in December 2014 that appeared to be aimed at Black Lives Matter protesters. The first 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.”
After that, he tweeted: “Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter”
White’s hashtag appeared to be a play on words related to the popular BlackLivesMatter hashtag, which has since grown into a widespread activist movement against officer-involved shootings that primarily involve unarmed black men.
White’s posts were condemned by then-Chief Larry Esquivel, the San Jose Police Officer’s Association and Menlo College in Atherton, where he once acted as an assistant basketball coach. He also deleted his Twitter account amid the controversy.
In January 2015, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced the tweets were “inappropriate and unprofessional,” but did not warrant criminal charges.
Prior to posting the tweets, White had apparently complained of the property damage that occurred during 2014 Bay Area protests. He also said he was threatened on social media and via his voice mail at Menlo College, the district attorney’s office said.
White was placed on paid leave after his Tweets went viral, but it was not clear if he had ever been fired. After a probation period, he participated in an appeal, which led to his reinstatement by an arbitrator.
Since his return, White has been assigned “administrative duties” and will also help in the body-worn camera roll out, police said.