In June, a White police chief in Ohio stood by the department’s copy machine while he printed a note, video shows.
Moments later, Anthony Campo walked over to a yellow raincoat on a Black officer’s desk and placed a note on top.
It read: “Ku Klux Klan.”
For months, the identity of the Black officer, who spotted the note when he walked into the room minutes later, was unknown.
But on Thursday, Sheffield Lake police officer Keith Pool broke his silence and detailed the incident that sparked outrage in the north Ohio city and prompted Sheffield Lake to suspend Campo. The chief has since retired.
“It was so demeaning,” Pool said at a news conference. “It was not a funny joke. It was offensive and humiliating, and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire career.”
Earlier this month, Pool’s legal team filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, alleging their client was harassed and discriminated against because of his color and race. His attorneys also filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Ohio to compel the police department to provide public records that allegedly documented the race-based harassment Campo is accused of committing.
“Invoking the KKK to harass a Black police officer betrays American values and makes a mockery of the oath the ex-chief swore to serve and protect his community,” Pool’s attorney, Ashlie Case Sletvold, told The Washington Post in an email. “Despite the harassment he endured, Officer Keith Pool will continue to bravely do his duty while shining a light on this shocking abuse.”
Earlier this year, Campo apologized in an interview with the Morning Journal. He told the paper that he is not a racist and characterized the incident as a joke.
“That’s all it was,” Campo said. “I had a joking back and forth banter with that officer since I hired him.”
A relative who answered the phone at Campo’s house early Friday said Campo was not immediately available to speak.
An officer with the Sheffield Lake Police Department referred The Post to the city. Neither the city nor Mayor Dennis Bring responded to messages late Thursday.
The alleged harassment and discrimination went beyond what the station’s surveillance cameras captured, said Pool, who joined the department in September 2020 as its first Black officer.
“This was not the chief’s first time doing something racist and offensive to other employees,” Pool said. “It was just the first time it got caught.”
Pool said it was typical for his former boss to post “offensive,” “racist” and “sexist” images targeting officers on the department’s bulletin boards.
On one occasion, records state, Campo attached an image depicting Pool as the Grim Reaper, with the caption “The Raccoon Reaper,” using a reference to anti-Black imagery. He also allegedly pasted an image of a car with large rims, tinted windows and Pool’s name.
Pool was not the only officer of color allegedly targeted. On multiple occasions, records state, Campo posted images harassing the only Latino officer in the division, including an image depicting the officer sporting a sombrero as part of a hot sauce bottle logo.
On June 25, a surveillance camera captured Campo placing the printout on Pool’s rain jacket. The words “Ku Klux Klan,” referring to the nation’s most notorious White supremacy group, can be seen on the paper. Afterward, the chief asked another officer to go look at what he had placed on Pool’s desk, records state. When Pool arrived and saw the note, Campo allegedly urged other officers to come see his “joke” and chime in.
Then, records state, Campo made a pointy “Ku Klux Klan” hat out of paper and wore it in front of Pool and his other employees.
“He told me I should wear the KKK hat on my next service call,” Pool said.
The union reported the incident four days later, records state, and the city placed Campo on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation. Later that day, Campo submitted his retirement paperwork.
In the weeks that followed, records state, Pool’s legal team requested public records involving Campo, but the city has yet to return a complete list of the documents.
“The City’s failure to turn over the public records documenting his misconduct makes me feel like they want to protect the ex-chief, Campo,” Pool said, holding back tears. “It was inappropriate what he did to me, but even though everyone saw what he did to me, no one did anything to stop him.”
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