A Black police officer subject to apparent racist harassment by his former police chief has filed an employment discrimination charge, asking the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to conduct a full investigation.
Officer Keith Pool of the Sheffield Lake Police Department is also petitioning a court to order the department to turn over records from the police chief’s computer.
Pool, 57, made his first public statement Thursday since video of the apparent harassment surfaced in July.
Chief Anthony Campo left the force after video emerged showing him putting a “Ku Klux Klan” label on Pool’s raincoat while Pool wasn’t looking.
Pool was the department’s first — and at the time of the incident, only — Black police officer.
“Even when we watch it now I am in disbelief that this happened,” Pool said at a virtual news conference Thursday. “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 — a sign– 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 Klan.
Concurrent with his public appearance, attorneys for Pool announced two legal filings Thursday afternoon.
The first, a workplace discrimination charge filed with Ohio’s Civil Rights Commission, alleges that Campo interfered with Pool’s hiring, using the n-word to refer to him in the process.
The charge of discrimination alleges that after Pool’s hiring, 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 indicates that Pool is requesting an investigation 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.
A second filing in the Supreme Court of Ohio seeks to compel the City of Sheffield Lake to comply with a records request seeking Campo’s disciplinary history as well as images and documents created on his department-issued computer.
CNN has made several attempts to reach the City of Sheffield Lake but the city did not respond to requests for comment.
Campo told CNN affiliate WEWS in part, “It was just a joke that got out of hand.”
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