A Black police officer whose boss left a Ku Klux Klan note on his coat is breaking his silence about alleged workplace harassment and is taking legal action against the police department where he’s still employed.
Attorneys for Keith Pool, an officer with the Sheffield Lake Police Department in Ohio, on Thursday announced they had filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and a petition with the state Supreme Court to compel the city to release public records documenting the alleged harassment Pool faced.
Surveillance video showed then-police Chief Anthony Campo, who is white, on June 25 leaving a note reading “Ku Klux Klan” on a jacket that was sitting on Pool’s desk. Campo resigned in July after the incident sparked an uproar in the northern Ohio city.
For months, the identity of the officer was unknown — until Thursday.
“It was so demeaning that for a moment I didn’t know how to react to it,” said Pool, who has been in law enforcement for over 30 years, at a Thursday news conference. “I felt like I’d been hit with a sledgehammer.”
No publicly available telephone numbers or social media accounts for Campo were found to seek his comment.
Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring told Cleveland.com in July that Campo said the KKK note was a prank.
“He thought this was just a joke,” Bring told the outlet. “How can you possibly think that you can put something on somebody’s jacket like that, and especially if they were African American, and think this is a joke?”
Pool said at the press conference that his great uncle was killed by the KKK, contributing to the pain he experienced during the incident. He added that Campo has not directly apologized to him.
The complaint alleges Pool suffered racist harassment from Campo since he started working with the department in September 2020.
“Filing this charge is the first step in initiating a lawsuit,” said attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold, who added Pool was the first Black officer in the police department’s history.
The incident was not the first time Campo “did something racist,” Pool said.
Other employees told Pool that before he was hired, Campo interfered with his application and recruitment process and called him a racial slur, according to the complaint.
Pool also alleges Campo created racist images mocking him that he posted on department bulletin boards and showed to other employees. Campo also posted racist images of the department’s only Latino officer by depicting his face as part of a salsa logo, according to the complaint.
History of police violence:Police violence ‘enforced white supremacy’ in 1960s. Similar tactics are still used today.
‘I don’t trust the government’:Police trainers joined Oath Keepers
These events led up to June 25, when Pool said his former boss left a KKK note over the “police” label of his coat and then made a KKK hat out of paper, wore it and told Pool he should wear it during his next service call, according to the complaint.
“It was offensive and humiliating beyond anything I’ve experienced in my entire career,” Pool said.
The complaint also alleges that one or more of Pool’s “superior officers” were aware of the harassment but did not address it.
Sletvold alleged senior city officials were aware of Campo’s behavior but did not stop him or provide any training on appropriate workplace behavior.
Bring and the City of Sheffield Lake did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Officer Pool is a hero, a true public servant,” said one of Pool’s lawyers, Joseph Pfeiffer. “It’s time that the city he serves gets on the right side of history.”