Who is Robert Black? Tennessee cop allegedly fired for exposing Millersville PD racism

Black has filed a lawsuit against the department after he was allegedly fired for creating a fake Facebook account to expose systemic racism


                            Who is Robert Black? Tennessee cop allegedly fired for exposing Millersville PD racism
A patrol car belonging to Millersville Police (Millersville Police/Facebook)

A Tennessee police department at the center of a racism controversy has now been taken to court by two former cops who claim they were harassed. Robert Black, a former officer at Millersville PD has filed a case against the department along with ex-colleague Joshua Barnes. Both men were reportedly targeted and harassed, Barnes for being Black, and Black for having a biracial son. In the lawsuit, Black also alleges he was fired after exposing Millersville PD to BLM.

For decades, police departments all over the US have been accused of systemic racism, with some striking examples coming to light recently. In February, a Michigan cop was suspended for sharing a racist Facebook post mocking George Floyd. In August 2020, a South Carolina cop was caught repeatedly using the n-word against a Black man. Allegations stem back even further though. A 2019 report found that 400 cops were linked to racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist hate groups.

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Allegations against the Millersville PD aren't new. Reportedly, the department was sued back in 2015, but the lawsuit was dismissed. Amongst the many allegations levied by Black and Barnes is that Chief Mark Palmer is/was a member of the KKK. Things were so bad, that Black had to report the department to BLM, using a fake profile, but he was caught eventually. Here's his story.

A shot of the Millersville Police office in Millersville, Tennessee. (Millersville Police/Facebook)

Who is Robert Black?

The former Millersville PD officer joined the department in 2019. He is listed as a resident of Davidson County, Tennessee in the lawsuit, which also notes he is originally from New Jersey. The suit indicates his first-ever police job was with the Millersville PD, whom he joined on June 6, 2019. Little else is known about Black, as he doesn't appear to have a public Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram account.

When Palmer learned that Black had a biracial son, he allegedly "became hostile" towards Officer Black. In one instance, Palmer allegedly said, "Robert is a little different. He is not one of us." When asked why by another officer, Palmer replied, "Well, you know his kid and all." Apart from being racially harassed, Black was also sexually harassed on numerous occasions. In the lawsuit, he said Officer Melissa Pearce "began sexually harassing Plaintiff Black by making repeated, unwanted advances." One time, Pearce grabbed Black's genitals and asked why he would not have sex with her. 

Black accuses the whole department of being involved in the harassment, not just one or two officers. He says Assistant Chief Dustin Carr also harassed him, and Pearce circulated an "unlawfully recorded" conversation Black had with his girlfriend. "Nobody would listen to what was going on up there. Nobody cared," Black told The Daily Beast. By September 2020, he was left fuming, but with little recourse. The management refused to take his complaints seriously, and instead asked him to support the "thin blue line."

Millersville Police Chief Mark Palmer (R) and Assistant Chief of Police John Carr (L) with new Police Academy graduates in 2019. (Millersville Police/Facebook)

Black then created a fake Facebook account, reached out to the BLM movement, and blew the whistle on the department. "I started letting them know: hey guys, maybe you want to look into the police chief up here," he said. In mid-September, activists organized a protest against Palmer, which he wanted to share via his fake account. Not knowing how Black asked a room full of police officers for help. "My sergeant closed the squad room door," he said, and another detective grabbed his phone and started sharing messages. But, that incident quickly made its way up the chain.

On September 11, Black was fired from Millersville PD. "As a result of your actions, the City has been forced to incur expenses and devote resources to prepare for a potentially large and unruly mob of angry protesters. Your conduct has put the lives and property of our citizens in danger," then-City Manager Holly Murphy wrote in an email to Black. Officer Barnes was allegedly moved to another shift for supporting Black, but resigned in October 2020 due to the "stress from the Defendants’ constant retaliation."

Black has filed the lawsuit in a bid to clear his name and return to policing. "I tried to do my job. I tried to learn, I tried to do the right thing... if you don’t toe the line, you’re going to be dealt with, one way or another. And if you do toe the line, you’re going to be living with the moral conflict of doing things you may not agree with," he told The Beast. He is asking for back pay, reinstatement, and compensatory damages for "mental anguish caused from the Defendant’s misconduct" and a jury trial.