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 was forced to resign in July following the uproar that erupted in Northern Ohio.
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. It felt like I was being hit by a sledgehammer.
Campo did not have any publicly-available telephone numbers, or social media accounts to request his opinion.
In July, Dennis Bring from Sheffield Lake told Cleveland.com that Campo claimed the KKK Note was a joke.
“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 claimed that his great uncle had been killed by KKK members, adding to his pain during the event. Pool said that Campo had not formally apologized for the incident.
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Pool was allegedly subject to racial harassment by Campo ever since September 2020, when he began working for the department.
Ashlie Case Slovold said that the filing of this charge is the first step towards bringing a case. She added that Pool was the first Black officer to be employed in the history of the police department.
Pool stated that Campo had not done anything racist in the past.
Pool claimed that Campo interfered before he was hired and called him racist.
Pool also alleges Campo created racist images mocking him that he posted on department bulletin boards and showed to other employees. The complaint also states that Campo used racist images to mock the department’s Latino officer, by showing his face as part a salsa emblem.
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Pool claims that his boss had left a KKK notice over his police label and made him a KKK-themed hat from paper. Pool was told to wear the hat during the next service call.
Pool stated, “It was offensively and humiliating above anything that I have experienced in all my career.”
Also, the complaint alleges that Pool’s “superior officials” knew about harassment but failed to address it.
Sletvold claimed that senior officials in the city knew about Campo’s behaviour but didn’t stop him nor provide training for appropriate behavior at work.
The City of Sheffield Lake and Bring did not respond immediately to inquiries for comment.
“Officer Pool is a hero, a true public servant,” said one of Pool’s lawyers, Joseph Pfeiffer. He should be recognized for his contributions to the history of the community he lives in.