Deryl Nelson, a park ranger for the City of Chattanooga at Coolidge Park, was known to some in the area as the “dancing park ranger” for his enthusiasm for getting down while on duty. It all started about a year into his job, when the Tennessee resident joined a large group of people dancing to Los del Rio’s seminal classic, “Macarena,” and the group responded well to it. From that point, he would often dance while on the job in uniform and it was apparently fine until this month when a mother shot video of him and complained, as WRCB Channel 3 Eyewitness News reports.
That mother who recorded the video is Melissa Parsons. "As a parent and seeing all the parents that were covering their kids’ eyes and turning their heads away, it wasn't something that you would expect to see in Coolidge Park or anywhere from a grown man, especially a man in uniform," Ms. Parsons told WTVC News Channel 9. “He went all the way down to the ground, he came back up from the ground, he was grabbing areas that you would see on a rated R movie." WTVC posted what they described as raw video, and in the footage there is no moment where Mr. Nelson is “grabbing areas.” It’s possible Ms. Parsons is mistaken, or wasn’t able to catch it on camera.
Mr. Nelson says that dancing was just a manner in which he expressed himself, describing it as, "Clean fun. It's nothing like, you know, doing any bumping and grinding.” Regardless, the public works department determined it was inappropriate and fired him for two violations: “conduct unbecoming of an employee,” and “inefficiency or negligence in performance of duties.”
WRCB notes that Mr. Nelson has been reprimanded in the past, once for hitting a vehicle, and another time for making an “unwelcome comment” about a co-worker. However, it should be noted that he has been commended in the past as well. In 2013 he was given an award for helping save a woman’s life. Mr. Nelson is currently appealing the termination, and said that ultimately he would like the public works department to, “Let me be myself. Let me be the park ranger. I was labeled 'the dancing park ranger,' so let me be the dancing park ranger.”