A small Ohio city’s first Black cop discovered a piece of paper on his yellow raincoat this past summer, containing only the words “Ku Klux Klan.” His police chief had put it there, surveillance video showed.
The viral incident, which Sheffield Lake’s mayor called “embarrassing and disgusting,” triggered Chief Anthony Campo’s resignation in June. Campo had apparently described it as a joke or a prank, and the video showed he’d placed the note shortly before Officer Keith Pool walked into the room at the police department, then watched for his reaction. At the time, Pool didn’t even know what to do except smile at his boss’ actions.
Now, he’s finally speaking out.
“It was so demeaning that in the moment, I just didn’t know how to react to it,” Pool, who has been with the department since September 2020, said during a press conference Thursday. “I felt like I’d been hit with a sledgehammer.”
Pool announced Thursday he’d filed a discrimination complaint with the state’s Civil Rights Commission, alleging Campo had harassed him on an “ongoing basis” due to his race and that he’d even once told other workers prior to Pool’s employment that he’d never hire a “n—–.”
Campo didn’t just put the sign on his rain jacket, either, Pool said—he’d donned a makeshift pointy Ku Klux Klan “hat,” which he told Pool he should wear on his next call, after Pool found what Campo had done, according to a press release.
Campo had also allegedly made other offensive images, too, including one describing Pool as the “Raccoon Reaper” and another showing the city’s only Latino officer on a bottle of hot sauce, according to a press release from the law firm representing Pool.
“This didn’t happen out of nowhere,” Pool said. “It wasn’t Chief Campo’s first time doing something racist. And it never should’ve gotten to the point that Chief Campo felt comfortable making a joke about the Ku Klux Klan in our workplace, or in any place.”
While describing the raincoat incident, Pool appeared to grow emotional. He said he would’ve rather Campo hit him in the face. That way, at least, he would’ve been able to protect himself in front of his colleagues.
A family member of Pool’s had been killed by a Klan member, he said.
Pool’s attorneys have also filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Ohio to pressure the city into releasing public records “documenting race-based harassment committed by” Campo, according to the firm’s press release Thursday. Pool said that by not turning over those records, the city was acting as if it wanted to protect Campo.
“I feel it important to raise my voice about this so that the city, the police department, and the police departments across the country understand that this racist, hateful conduct is completely unacceptable, period.”
Campo, who was the city’s police chief for eight years, told WKYC, a Cleveland NBC affiliate, over the summer that he respected Pool and that the incident was “overblown.” He could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.
“If it wasn’t bad enough that the former police chief was engaged in rampant racist workplace harassment, now the city that hired him appears to be helping to cover it up,” Joseph C. Peiffer, managing partner, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, the firm representing Pool, said in a press release. “Racial harassment has no place in law enforcement, and we will ensure that the city of Sheffield Lake will face a reckoning for all of the despicable behavior conducted by its former Police Chief.”
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