A Bradenton police officer has been fired for writing racist and homophobic posts and comments on Facebook.
Mark Roberts was officially terminated as of Dec. 1, after a nearly four-month-long internal affairs investigation. A command staff review board determined Nov. 30 that the offensive comments and posts, made between Feb. 8, 2013, and June 3, 2016, violated department policy.
Roberts, a Bradenton officer for nine years, was placed on administrative duty and assigned to work at the front desk when the investigation started. He worked there until he was fired.
Allegations of conduct unbecoming an officer, neglect of job duties and a violation of general orders and rules regarding social media against Roberts were all sustained, according to internal affairs report.
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Roberts admitted making the posts on his personal Facebook page, and in some identified himself as a Bradenton police officer. But he is fighting the firing and is demanding he be reinstated and receive back pay, benefits and seniority rights. He claims the posts and comments did not violate departmental policies.
“He stated all of his postings were simply jokes and did not constitute a pattern of animosity towards any particular group of people,” the report states. “He stated he did not hate gay or black people.”
The report includes copies of several posts in which Roberts made racist or homophobic comments.
Bradenton Police Chief Melanie Bevan wrote a summary for the report and cited some of the offensive posts. The first one she lists is Roberts’ response to a posting featuring the father of a black 17-year-old burglar shot dead by a homeowner. Roberts wrote, “I’m glad your kid is dead. Now go make another one.”
In another post, he ridiculed gay men after a baker in Arizona refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.
Bevan said Roberts’ firing sends a clear message to the department that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
“The Bradenton Police Department strives to maintain a professional and unbiased agency. Any actions by officers that may impair working relationships, impede the performance of duties, impair harmony among coworkers or negatively affect the public perception of the BPD will not be tolerated,” Bevan wrote in a command staff review board summary. “The citizens of Bradenton demand and deserve respect and impartiality from those who serve their community.”
Since Roberts’ termination, Bevan said she and other members of the department’s command staff reaffirmed to all employees that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
Roberts never denied any of his actions, according to the internal affairs report. But he filed a formal grievance on Wednesday, saying he was fired without just cause, according to the form.
Several Bradenton police officers and dispatchers and a former police officer were questioned during the investigation. Still pending is a separate line of inquiry of all Bradenton police officers and staff who either liked or commented on Roberts’ posts.
The investigation was prompted by an email Bevan received June 3 from someone who said he felt compelled to bring to light “Roberts making openly racist comments online.”
Roberts was first interviewed about the allegations on Aug. 8 and confirmed that he made all the postings he was confronted with, according to the internal affairs report.
When confronted with his comment about the father of the slain burglar, Roberts said he had been fed up with people making excuses for their actions and blaming homeowners or law enforcement when a burglar is shot, according to the report, which was written by police Capt. John Affolter.
“Officer Roberts stated he did not view his post as a stereotype towards black people, and ‘If you do, I’m not the one with the racist views,’” Affolter wrote.
Roberts received commendations in the past, being named officer of the month twice in 2015.