Late last month, Sergeant Shannon Dildine of the North Charleston police department was fired after a controversial photo of him wearing nothing except a pair of Confederate flag boxers surfaced from his Facebook. It is unclear when the photo was originally posted.
Over the past month, the Confederate flag has made waves throughout the country because of what it represents and, specifically, its ties to white supremacist Dylann Roof, the man responsible for the Charleston massacre. Roof was frequently photographed with the flag prior to the shooting. This prompted the flag’s removal from South Carolina’s Capitol after Gov. Nikki Haley called on the state’s lawmakers to take action. It also resulted in many major retailers – including Walmart (one of DiversityInc’s Top 25 Noteworthy Companies) and Amazon – removing the flag and any related products from their stores.
In light of these events, according to Police Chief Eddie Driggers in his termination letter to Dildine, the Confederate flag is not a symbol that should be associated with any member of the North Charleston police department:
On Tuesday … the City learned that you posted on Facebook a photograph in which you were wearing only a pair of boxer shorts emblazoned with the image of the Confederate flag … Your posting in this manner led to you being publicly identified as a North Charleston Police officer and associated both you and the Department with an image that symbolizes hate and oppression to a significant portion of the citizens we are sworn to serve.
Dildine, who has been on the force since 1996, is now appealing his termination. His attorney, Edward Phipps, sent a letter requesting the appeal to Chief Driggers, saying that Dildine’s photo did not violate any policies and he was “terminated without cause.”
“It is my understanding that Mr. Dildine has an excellent record and has been an outstanding officer,” he said.
In his nearly 20 years on the force, there have been three complaints filed against Dildine, and race did not play a factor in any of them. However, it is future arrests that could very well be a cause for concern “since defense counsel can reasonably be expected to use the photograph to call into question … your motivation in making the arrest,” the termination letter says.
Further, Chief Driggers states that whatever Dildine’s personal beliefs about the flags may be have nothing to do with the incident:
… some say the flag emblem may have different meanings to different people … your personal beliefs are irrelevant to the City’s decision to terminate your employment. In light of current events posting an inflammatory photograph in a way that permitted it to become widely distributed shows a lack of reason or judgment that is unacceptable.
According to Chief Driggers, the photo tarnishes Dildine’s “ability to improve trust and instill confidence when working with our citizens.” This is especially relevant in a time when community and police rapport is so crucial.
The North Charleston police department also found itself under fire this past April after the murder of Walter Scott at the hands of former officer Michael Slager. Chief Driggers also acted quickly in this case: after video footage emerged showing the incident, he fired Slager, calling it “a tragic day for many.”