A Black police officer has filed a discrimination charge against an Ohio police department whose chief was seen in a surveillance video putting a note saying “Ku Klux Klan” on the officer’s jacket.
Attorneys for the officer said Thursday they discovered after the video was released this summer that the chief, who soon retired, had previously posted pictures of the officer and other employees on the Sheffield Lake Police Department’s bulletin board that mocked their race, gender and religion.
The discrimination charge filed with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission is the first step toward filing a civil rights lawsuit, the attorneys said.
“It was not a funny joke. It was offensive and humiliating,” said Sheffield Lake Officer Keith Pool, who talked publicly for the first time about what happened. “Even when we watch it now I’m in disbelief that this happened to me.”
Pool, who last year became the first Black officer in the department’s history and still works there, said all he could think was “are you serious” when he found the note.
He said the chief quickly came in the room and then called in other officers to look at the note. The chief then came back wearing a makeshift KKK hat, Pool’s attorneys said.
“What else can you say to the chief of police who did something so heinous, so awful,” said Pool, a 30-year veteran officer who previously worked in departments around northeastern Ohio.
Police Chief Anthony Campo resigned just days later when Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring confronted him. Campo had been with the department west of Cleveland for 33 years, the last eight as chief.
Campo, who is white, told him it was supposed to be a prank, Bring said last June. The mayor called it “embarrassing and disgusting” and said he apologized to Pool.
The surveillance video, which did not include sound, shows Campo and Pool talking briefly after the officer discovered the note.
A message seeking comment about the discrimination charge was left with Sheffield Lake’s mayor and law director on Thursday. No publicly available telephone numbers were found for Campo to seek his comment.
Attorneys representing Pool said they have asked the Ohio Supreme Court to force the city to release all records showing Campo’s offensive conduct while he served as chief.
Campo made racist and offensive images using photos of city employees and would post them on the bulletin board or put them on the desks of employee, the attorneys said.
“It seems this was his regular workplace behavior,” said attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold.