A.J. Torres is the second Sheffield Lake officer to allege harassment.
(CNN)A Latino officer in a suburban Cleveland police department became the second officer to speak out publicly after filing a complaint earlier this year with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission about alleged racist actions by former Sheffield Lake Police Chief Anthony Campo. Officer A.J. Torres filed his complaint with the state civil rights commission on February 8, 2022. The filing with the commission is a step required by state law before filing an employment discrimination lawsuit.
At a news conference Tuesday in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, an attorney for Torres said the officer was regularly harassed by Campo due to his religion and race. Torres said he is a “devoted Catholic” and should not have to hide his religion at work.
“I don’t put away my nationality and my heritage when I come to work, I shouldn’t have to hide my religion either,” he said.
Attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold, who also represents Torres, said Campo placed a picture of Torres with two children, taken while on a missionary trip, and placed it on a bottle of hot sauce with a speech bubble implying that Torres was a pedophile. Sletvold also said that Campo allegedly repeatedly mocked Torres for not working Sundays due to his religious beliefs and placed a picture of Torres on an image of a priest. In a complaint to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Torres said Campo also placed images of him on a jar of salsa.
CNN has reached out to the city of Sheffield Lake and the Ohio Civil Rights Commission for reaction to these new allegations. CNN has not been able to reach Campo.
In June 2021, Campo was seen on video placing a Ku Klux Klan label over the police insignia on a Black officer’s raincoat. In the video, Officer Keith Pool, the department’s only Black officer at the time, was then seen entering the room and appearing to laugh after seeing the raincoat. Pool’s attorneys say Campo then encouraged others to view his actions and proceeded to parade around the office with a KKK hat and said Pool would have to wear the hat on his next call. According to CNN affiliate WOIO, Sheffield Mayor Dennis Bring says Pool told him he only laughed given the uncomfortable position he was put in by the chief’s prank.
Pool subsequently filed an employment discrimination complaint.
“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,” Pool told reporters in a news conference when he detailed his complaints against the former police chief last year.
Shortly after the incident, the city’s mayor asked Campo to turn in his badge and keys, and followed with the announcement of Campo’s retirement, according to CNN affiliates. In an interview with CNN affiliate WEWS, Campo claimed his actions seen in the video were “a joke that got out of hand.” Torres said Tuesday that everything the former chief put him and Pool through wasn’t a joke and that Campo’s alleged racist and anti-Catholic attacks hurt.
According to attorneys for the officers in a news release following Tuesday’s presser, the city of Sheffield Lake does not dispute Campo’s conduct was “perhaps inappropriate and in poor taste,” however the city maintains that the former chief’s actions were “not so offensive to the reasonable person that it would materially affect the terms and consequences of employment.”
CNN, June 21, 2022