SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio — Months after video surfaced of an alleged racial incident involving the former Sheffield Lake Police Chief, the Black officer who attorneys say was targeted by the harassment has spoken out publicly for the first time.
Officer Keith Pool was joined by the Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane & Conway law firm on Thursday for a news conference with reporters via Zoom.
It was back in late June when 3News’ Mark Naymik first reported on the incident as Police Chief Anthony Campo was accused of placing a note on a raincoat that was set aside for the officer. The note read: “Ku Klux Klan.”
“I felt like I’d been hit with a sledgehammer,” said Pool. “My exact words were, ‘Are you serious?’ What else can you say to the Chief of Police who done something so heinous and so awful to the first black officer ever? It’s not understandable. I can’t understand it,” Pool said as he struggled to hold back his emotions.
On Thursday, Pool and his attorneys released more video from the incident. It showed that minutes later, Campo made a cone-shaped hat out of newspaper, also synonymous with the nation’s most notorious white supremacy group, and asked Pool to wear it on his next service call.
"It was not a funny joke. It was offensive and humiliating beyond anything I've ever experienced in my entire career and my life," Pool said. “Not only did he hurt me. He hurt my family. He hurt my kids.”
Pool and his attorneys also discussed "a new petition being filed with the Supreme Court of Ohio for the release of public records documenting offensive conduct perpetrated by the former police chief,” according to a press release. “The officer is also filing an Ohio Civil Rights Commission Charge for discrimination.”
Their press release alleges this was "not the first racist act that Campo perpetrated while on duty."
“Because the city of Sheffield Lake has not fully complied with its obligation to provide public records pertinent to this and other incidents, the officer’s attorneys will file a petition to mandate their release.”
Officer Pool, who said he lost a great uncle to KKK violence, claims the harassment started shortly after he was hired in September 2020 and was widely seen and enabled by other city leaders.
He says Campo made other remarks, and frequently used his department computer to create racially offensive images on faceinhole.com, targeting Pool, a Hispanic officer, and others, and posting the images to department bulletin boards.
“These images were racist, sexist and totally offensive,” said Pool.
The city today wouldn't comment on the claims, saying they're under litigation. In June, Mayor Dennis Bring told 3News, “I don't even think [Campo] fathoms how bad this is…and he's going to realize it. And shame on him, and you know what, I hope he gets whatever he deserves.”
Campo retired June 29, 2021, the same day he was placed on leave. He told 3News by phone then the incident was "overblown,” and that it was off-color humor.
Pool's attorneys say they want the department to do the right thing.
“We have no idea how far this went, but I promise you this, we intend to find out,” said Joseph Peiffer. “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.”
Officer Pool is still working with Sheffield Lake Police, and says the atmosphere is now upbeat without Campo, and he's supported by his 14 fellow officers. He's a Lorain native, with a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement at other departments in the county. He wants to be sure this doesn't happen again here in Northeast Ohio or anywhere else.
“All I want to do is help people,” said Pool. “That’s what my job was designed to do, was to help people. I don’t care what color they are, what nationality they are, or who they are.”