NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two former Millersville Police officers have now sued the city and Police Chief Mark Palmer for intimidating them right out of a job.
The lawsuit implicates city officials in a conspiracy to cover up systemic racism and wrongdoing by other officers.
It’s been nearly a year to the day since Robert Black was fired from the Millersville Police Department. He’s relieved to now have a lawsuit in his hands and an attorney in Bryant Kroll to vindicate his claims.
“These are legitimate concerns that people have a right to know about,” Robert said.
In the 28-page document, Robert and former Sergeant Josh Barnes describe in painstaking detail numerous times where officers and chief Palmer routinely used the n-word.
These comments were made in front of Barnes, who is Black, and Robert, who has a biracial son. Robert detailed multiple stories about how his fellow officers bullied him because of this, but things only got worse after the protesters began marching in honor of George Floyd.
Robert says the chief would often refer to Black protestors as “animals” and made comments with other city officials where they talked about what they would do if a protest ever made it to Millersville.
“This is not about me getting back at anybody or seeking revenge. This is purely about standing up for what’s right morally and ethically,” Robert said.
At one point, Robert said he had enough and used a fake name on social media to put out a call to action. He described the systemic racism within the department that led back to another prior lawsuit where Chief Palmer was accused of placing a KKK magazine in a Black officer's locker.
Robert added that the department was also attempting to conceal the fact that assistant chief Dustin Carr was under investigation by the TBI for domestic violence.
“At the end of the day, these are public officials. So nothing is really behind closed doors per se,” Robert said.
Robert recorded conversations with Chief Palmer in what he says were one of several hours-long interrogations to find out who was speaking to TBI about Carr.
Palmer was heard in one recording where he said, “this has the potential to be one hellaciously bad mark on our department. Right or wrong, innocent or guilty, it doesn’t matter.”
In another recording, Palmer attempts to convince Robert to back his fellow officers and keep quiet by saying, “this is one of our own and he is one of our own. Do you not understand what the blue line is?”
Some officers say they were told to share with their superiors what they told the TBI or face being fired.
Once the city determined that Robert was responsible for the social media posts, they fired him. Barnes stayed for a few months after but left the department when the alleged intimidation became too much to handle.
Robert’s attorney Bryant Kroll says in his years of practicing unemployment law, he’s never seen anything like it. Not only were there audio recordings for evidence, but you have several officers who now say they too will testify against the department for the intimidation they saw.
“Here we have claims for retaliation for refusing to participate in illegal activity and refusing to remain silent about it,” Kroll said.
Robert is seeking damages including back pay but says he would like to find another job as a police officer. This time for a department he believes will uphold the values and integrity the badge deserves.
We did reach out to the Millersville city manager Steven Collie who says their attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit and until then, they have no comment. They have a 21-day window to respond beginning Friday, but Robert says they’re prepared for what could be a long legal process.
With Carr still working his normal shift, Robert says Carr has grilled officers on what they’ve shared with TBI.
Robert says it was Carr’s now ex-wife who approached officers in the first place, asking for advice on how she could press charges against an officer.
“She took photos of it and sent those photos to an officer and that officer reported it to a supervisor,” Robert said.
The now-former Millersville city manager Holly Murphy explained in an email back in September, that the city has no policy to place officers on leave when under investigation.