SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio — A police officer who says he was the butt of a racist "joke" made by former Sheffield Lake Chief of Police Anthony Campo has filed a discrimination charge against the city that seeks the release of public documents regarding other racist incidents the city's former top cop was allegedly involved in.
The catalyst was an incident involving officer Kieth Pool that was captured on camera inside the station on June 25.
Footage of the incident shows Campo placing a yellow police raincoat face down on a desk with the hood prominently visible. The word "POLICE" is emblazoned on the raincoat. Campo then places a white folded piece of paper on the jacket with what appears to be three words printed on it and then places it over the top of the word police.
The Sheffield Lake law director told News 5 when it happened that "from my understanding it was related to the KKK."
The video then shows Campo walking out of the room. Officer Keith Pool, who is Black, comes in, and Campo points out the coat and paper to him. After Campo walks out of the room, Pool picks up the paper and the raincoat. Other officers come into the room and have a discussion.
The video has no sound so its unclear what was said. You can watch the video in the player below:
"Even when I watch it now, I am in disbelief that this happened to me," Pool said in a Zoom interview with his legal representation present, the first time News 5 has heard from him since the incident in June. He also recollected the incident, saying the chief called over other officers to see what he had done.
"My my exact words were, are you serious? And I just looked at him and left it," Pool said. "What else can you say to the chief of police who's done something so heinous? It's so awful."
Department records show that the chief was placed on administrative leave on June 29 pending an investigation into the matter. Campo submitted his retirement notice the same day he was placed on leave.
Records show Campo was with the department for 33 years.
Campo later told News 5 that the incident was a "joke that got out of hand."
According to the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway, which is representing Pool, Campo's conduct goes beyond a single joke.
"Our investigation has revealed that Chief Campo referred to Officer Pool as the 'N-word' and said he did not want an 'N-word' working in his department," said Ashlie Case Sletvold a partner with Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway.
The law firm said the city has also not released the public records that deal with the alleged additional harassment Campo targeted other minority officers with.
"This was not the first time doing something racist and offensive to me or other employees," Pool said. "It was just the first time they got caught on video."
The charge seeks the release of other documents showing "racist images Campo generated and posted while on duty."
"The city provided the surveillance video and other records but failed to provide the racist images Campo created to mock and humiliate employees of color or various official memoranda he issued during his tenure," the law firm said.
According to the law firm, Campo used police department equipment to create and print out offensive images which were left on the desks of other officers.
"The images included one of Officer Pool as the grim reaper (describing him as 'The Raccoon Reaper')," and another image that was printed out that allegedly portrayed another officer of color, the law firm stated.
It continued, "Because the City of Sheffield Lake has not fully complied with its obligations under the Ohio Public Records Act, Officer Pool’s attorneys have asked the state’s highest court to mandate the release of these public records."
So far, the city has only provided the surveillance video relating to the incident involving Pool, the law firm said.
"The city's failure to turn over the public records documenting his misconduct makes me feel like they want to protect the ex-chief," Pool said.
“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. 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,” said Joseph C. Peiffer, managing partner, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway.
Pool, who still works for the department under the new chief, Andrew Kory, calls it a healthier environment than under Campo.
"Working there since the incident and the removal of Chief Campo has been more upbeat," he said.
The law firm has filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) as well as a mandamus petition with the Ohio Supreme Court regarding the matter. According to documents provided by the law firm, Ohio law prohibits individuals from bringing a lawsuit in state court until they have first filed a charge with the OCRC and received a Notice of Right to Sue.
Now, it will be up to the Ohio Supreme Court to decide how they will handle the case, and the OCRC to investigate the charge.
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