BARTOW (FOX 13) - Community leaders in Bartow are rallying around their embattled chief of police even as a Winter Haven group has been pushing to have Joe Hall fired because they say he has treated employees differently because of their race.
"I support the chief. The commission supports the chief. Nothing to this point has us thinking otherwise," said Bartow Mayor Trish Pfeiffer.
Hall's critics protested in front of the police department last month because Hall did not discipline former Officer Christina Arribas after she compared former President Obama to a gorilla on her private Facebook page. Eventually, the state attorney stepped in and she was let go.
Hall’s backers, who find the comment inappropriate, say he couldn't sanction Arribas because she is protected under the First Amendment.
"The chief is just great," Joyce Thurman told FOX 13. "He doesn't deserve what's being said about him."
Thurmon, along with many other of Bartow's black leaders, are members of the Community Relations Committee. Many see the current controversy as minor compared to all the good Hall has done for the community, including a more than 30 percent drop in crime in recent years.