Sunday, June 17, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg police officer resigns after using racial slur

ST. PETERSBURG — A rookie police officer who used the n-word while investigating a dispute resigned Tuesday hours later.

Officer Michael Naples had been on the job 11 months. The incident took place Monday around 11 p.m., police said, and he resigned the next day at 1 p.m.

"The officer admitted that while he was on the scene he did use a racial slur," St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway said at a Tuesday news conference.

The recipient of that slur was Levonte Daniels, 27.

"I’m still hurt," Daniels told the Tampa Bay Times. "He might have quit, but I still have a 5-year-old daughter who I have to explain this to."

He added: "You just made me feel like the scum of the earth."

St. Petersburg police gave this account: Naples was dispatched to a dispute along 62nd Place S between a pizza delivery driver and Daniels, a customer. Police said Daniels had struck the hood of the driver’s vehicle with a fire extinguisher.

Daniels denied that allegation. He told the Times that the extinguisher hit the car because he had to jump out of its way, not because he swung it.

The officer referred Daniels to a pre-trial diversion program on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. The program allows qualifying offenders to avoid arrest and court by admitting their crime.

But as Naples was leaving, he and Daniels got into an argument over the referral. That’s when Naples, who is white, called Daniels the racial slur, police said. Daniels, who is black, recorded the exchange and posted it to Facebook.

"I’m not going to repeat that because it’s not worth repeating," Holloway said of the slur.

Daniels said he was incensed because he had called the police to complain that the delivery driver threw change at his face. He said he tried to block the path of her car so she couldn’t leave before police arrived but she wouldn’t stop. Then he was shocked to learn the officer cited him instead.

"This situation has everything to do with another black man being railroaded into a system by being forced to take charges or go to jail," he said.

Later Monday night, Daniels called the police department and spoke with a supervisor. When a lieutenant offered to send a sergeant to his home, Daniels declined and hung up. But supervisors continued investigating the confrontation, police said, and saw the video at about 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.

When they confronted Naples about the exchange, police said, he admitted to using the slur and apologized.

"He just said, ‘I was wrong. I got caught up in the moment,’" the chief said. "He said, ‘I shouldn’t have said that.’"

As a new hire, Naples was a probationary officer who could be fired at the department’s discretion. Holloway said Naples would have been fired had he not resigned. The chief said Naples admitted to using the slur without knowing the video had been made public.

Naples could not be reached for comment.

Times staff writer Josh Solomon contributed to this report. Contact Justin Trombly at [email protected] Follow @JustinTrombly.

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