Sheffield Lake, Ohio – A Black police officer in Ohio has filed a racial discrimination complaint after his chief put a note with “Ku Klux Klan” written on it on his coat.
Officer Keith Pool, 57, announced the complaint against the Sheffield Lake Police department at a video conference Thursday. Pool said city officials did little to stop the racial misconduct from Police Chief Anthony Campo.
According to Pool, the note wasn’t the first time he had experienced racial misconduct from Campo. The complaint alleges that Campo engaged in ongoing racist abuse against Pool.
Pool became Sheffield Lake’s first black officer in 2020 and at the time of the incident was the only Black officer on the force.
In the video recorded on June 25, 2020, Campo can be seen grabbing a sheet of paper from the copy machine and placing it on top of Pool’s raincoat. Campo then walks back to the copier and watches Pool walk toward the coat. A few minutes later when Pool confronts Campo, the chief rolled up several papers and placed them on his head to simulate a KKK hat.
During a press conference, Pool told reporters that his initial reaction to the note was one of shock and disbelief.
“My exact words were, ‘Are you serious?’” Officer Pool said at the conference 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.”
Campo said the note was meant as a joke but resigned after being placed on leave by the town’s mayor in July. Pool is still currently employed by the city.
During the video news conference, Pool said Campo had a history of racial incidents including calling him the N-word, and regularly posting racist flyers on a bulletin board targeting him and a Hispanic officer.
“Even when we watch it now, I am in disbelief that this happened,” Pool said at the virtual news conference. “It was so demeaning that in the moment I just didn’t know how to react to it. I felt like I’d been hit with a sledgehammer.”
“Chief Campo thought that putting the words Ku Klux Klan on my rain jacket, and then wearing the Ku Klux Klan hat, was something of a joke,” Pool said. “Even worse he told other officers to go look at what he did. I would have rather at that point for him to have hit me in my face.”
“It was offensive and humiliating, and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire career,” Pool added.
Pool said the incident made him think of a story told to him by his late great-grandmother, about his great-uncle who had been killed by the Klu Klux Klan.
Attorneys for Pool announced that they have filed a workplace discrimination charge with Ohio’s Civil Rights Commission. The charge alleges that Campo interfered with Pool’s hiring, using the n-word to refer to him in the process.
The filing also alleges that Campo created multiple images directed at Pool that played on racial stereotypes. These images were allegedly made on Campo’s work computer and were printed and posted on the department’s bulletin board.
The filing requests that an investigation be conducted by the Commission, a step required by state law before filing an employment discrimination lawsuit in court.
In the filing, Pool also alleges a pattern of discriminatory conduct, including offensive images or statements at other members of the force. One such image allegedly included the face of the department’s sole Latino officer superimposed onto the label of a bottle of hot sauce.