A Tennessee police officer who was fired last year after he reported racism within the Millersville Police Department to Black Lives Matter organizers has filed a lawsuit against the police chief and the suburban Nashville city.
In the suit, Robert Black, who is white and has a biracial son, alleges he was bullied and intimidated by defendant police chief Mark Palmer. The suit also names Sgt. Josh Barnes, who is Black, as a plaintiff and claims city officials were involved in a conspiracy to cover up systemic racism and wrongdoing by other officers.
Black claims that a female officer grabbed his genitals and made a racial slur, and alleges Palmer made disparaging comments about his biracial son.
When Black told the female officer to stop, she replied, “Why? Because I’m not a n—-r?”
Black suspected Palmer has Ku Klux Klan ties, the suit says. The Millersville Police Department was previously sued for Klan-related intimidation within its ranks. In 2013, Palmer placed a KKK magazine called “The Klansman’s Voice” into the locker of an African American police officer, Anthony Hayes. The paper is not for sale and is only given to Klan members.
During his time with the department, “Barnes witnessed Chief Palmer use racial
to describe African-Americans. For example, he frequently used the word “Nig**r” in front of Barnes and has referred to African Americans as “animals” numerous times in Barnes’ presence,” according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by Atlanta Black Star.
The legal claim further states: “In an effort to degrade Barnes, Chief Palmer told him, ‘Josh, I know you always want to get some fried chicken and watermelon.’ Chief Palmer took pictures with Plaintiff Barnes and informed Barnes that he wanted to make it appear that he (Palmer) was not racist. Chief Palmer has a figurine of a monkey in his office for the purpose of demeaning African Americans because he believes they are ‘monkeys’ and refers to them as such.”
The assistant police chief John “Dustin” Carr, also a defendant, was under investigation at the time for allegedly assaulting his wife during a conflict over a supposed affair with an alleged drug suspect. The suit alleges the department attempted to conceal the investigation.
Black and other officers’ complaints were quieted as they were told to respect the “thin blue line,” the suit says.
Sometime last year, fed up with the racism, Black made a fake Facebook profile and reached out to Black Lives Matter organizers to blow the whistle about racism in the department.
“I started letting them know: hey guys, maybe you want to look into the police chief up here. It’s a small city and everyone’s so focused on Nashville. This guy was apparently in a KKK lawsuit by a Black cop five years ago,” Black told The Daily Beast.
Days later, in September 2020, he was fired. Barnes left the department a few months later due to alleged continued intimidation. Officials justified Black’s termination by saying he’d promoted a protest against Palmer.
The suit claims members of the department and city conspired to deprive Barnes and Black of their rights and created a hostile work environment. The suit seeks damages of back-pay, reinstatement or front pay, and an award of compensatory damages, including damages for mental anguish.
“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,” Black told News Channel 5.