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Local News

White South Carolina Police Officer Fired Over Racial Slur

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COLUMBIA, S.C.  — A police officer in South Carolina's capital city was fired Monday, two days after videos were posted on social media showing him saying a racial slur during a confrontation outside a bar.

A disciplinary panel unanimously agreed Columbia Police Sgt. Chad Walker broke department policies concerning neglect of duty and courtesy and should lose his job, the department said in a news release.

Walker, who is white, was heard several times on his own body camera video and videos from other people saying the racial slur after someone at a bar he was trying to close for the night called him the same slur, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said.

Walker then started arguing with people outside the bar, using the racial slur to ask a Black man if he called him the word. The videos show the Black man saying he didn’t call the officer that word, and the two argue about it as three other officers look on.

“When I was called that, I can say it back, saying the guy just called me — oh I can’t? He can say it to me, but I can't say it to him?” Walker is heard arguing loudly on his body camera video, released Sunday by the police department.

Walker was shutting down the bar at 11 p.m. Saturday to comply with the South Carolina governor's order banning alcohol sales after that time to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The disciplinary rules for Columbia Police give wide latitude to the force's Chain of Command Disciplinary Review Board, allowing it to consider the “impact of the error on public confidence.”

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is Black, called the officer's actions unacceptable on Twitte r when Walker was suspended Sunday, and praised the police chief for acting swiftly and decisively.

The board agreed that Walker, a 14-year veteran of the force who has worked in Columbia his entire law enforcement career, broke two policies — a broad one about neglecting duty and another regarding being courteous on duty.

The courtesy policy requires officers to control their tempers and “not engage in argumentative discussions even in the face of extreme provocation." The policy also says officers will not use “coarse, violent, profane, insolent, sexually provocative or degrading language” and won't “express any prejudice toward any individual or group.”

A phone number or other way to contact Walker could not be found.

Holbrook said the board's decision shows his officers will continue to hold each other to moral, professional and ethical standards and make maintaining public trust their highest priority.

“As I’ve stated before, when setbacks occur and mistakes are made, we must be willing to acknowledge them, fix them, learn from them, and continue to move forward together,” Holbrook said.

The chief also praised a junior officer who stepped in and guided Walker away from the situation.

Walker's body camera captured him still talking as he walked away from the bar about five minutes after he went inside to shut it down.

“I don’t understand how if I repeat what he told me, how that's wrong. I never called anybody a derogatory word. I was actually called the derogatory word," Walker said. “I’m sorry. I'm not going to sit there and be called derogatory names.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.