Black Officer Who Was Given K.K.K. Sign by Chief Files Civil Rights Complaint
The episode on June 25 was captured in a surveillance video obtained by lawyers for Keith Pool, the first Black police officer in Sheffield Lake, Ohio.,
A Black police officer in Ohio whose chief left a sheet of paper with the words “Ku Klux Klan” on his raincoat this summer, a jarring discovery captured in a surveillance video obtained by the officer’s lawyers, filed a discrimination complaint on Thursday with the state’s Civil Rights Commission.
The officer, Keith Pool, said during a video news conference on Thursday announcing the complaint against the city’s police force that officials in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, a small city about 25 miles west of Cleveland, had failed to stem a tide of racist misconduct by Anthony Campo, the police chief at the time.
Mr. Campo, who acknowledged his actions in interviews with local news media outlets, saying they were meant as a joke, resigned shortly after the episode.
Officer Pool, 57, who became Sheffield Lake’s first Black police officer last year and remains employed by the city, said during the news conference that Mr. Campo had previously called him a racial slur and regularly posted racist fliers on a bulletin board targeting him and another officer who is Hispanic.
Upon returning to his desk on June 25, Officer Pool recalled, he was floored by what he found: The note from Mr. Campo was placed on top of his raincoat, which had been spread out on a desk.
About six minutes later, after Officer Pool confronted Mr. Campo about the sign, the chief rolled up some papers into a cone-shaped hat resembling the hoods worn by Klansmen and put it on his head, the surveillance video showed. Officer Pool’s lawyers obtained the footage through a public records request.
“My exact words were, ‘Are you serious?'” Officer Pool said on Thursday. “And I just looked at him. What else can you say to the chief of police, who had done something so heinous and so awful to the first Black officer ever? It’s not understandable.”
In addition to the civil rights complaint, Officer Pool’s lawyers filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday, seeking the full release of Mr. Campo’s personnel records. So far, the officer’s lawyers said on Thursday, city officials have balked at those requests.
Mr. Campo did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Thursday. A man who answered the phone at his home, who identified himself as Mr. Campo’s son, said that he was not available.
Mayor Dennis Bring of Sheffield Lake did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday, but he told the television station WKYC shortly after the episode that he had apologized to the officer and that he rejected Mr. Campo’s explanation.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to even hear about it,'” Mr. Bring said of his conversation with Mr. Campo. “I said, ‘You’ve already admitted to it.’ And I said, ‘You’ve got 10 minutes to get out of this office.’ I said: ‘I want your keys, badge and that’s it. Get out.'”
Police officials and the City Council president in Sheffield Lake also did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Officer Pool, who has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years, said that Mr. Campo’s actions struck a nerve. He previously learned from his great-grandmother that his great-uncle had been killed by the K.K.K., he said.
“Not only did he hurt me, but he hurt my family,” said Officer Pool, who is one of about 14 officers in Sheffield Lake. “He hurt my kids. They had to see that.”
Ashlie Case Sletvold, a lawyer for Officer Pool, said during the news conference on Thursday that the civil rights complaint would allow Officer Pool to file a discrimination lawsuit.
“This disgusting display of bigotry cannot be tolerated in a civilized society, especially in law enforcement,” she said.