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Second Ohio cop alleges civil rights violations by former chief ousted for putting Klu Klux Klan sign on Black officer’s raincoat

“For 32 years, Anthony Campo served in the police department of the 3.8-square-mile, 9,000-population municipality of Sheffield Lake, Ohio. For eight of those years, he oversaw the department as chief.

For almost as long during his chief tenure, he allegedly harassed the 14-member force’s single Latino officer, AJ Torres, by making fun of his ethnicity, his faith and sometimes both together.

Then in 2020 along came the force’s first Black officer, Keith Pool, and Campo redoubled his efforts, the affected officers said Tuesday.

Torres on Tuesday detailed some of those alleged incidents to reporters, amplifying the allegations contained in a discrimination complaint he has filed against the City of Sheffield Lake, about 25 miles west of Cleveland, on the shore of Lake Erie.

Campo left the department last year — some reports say he was summarily fired, and others say he retired — after being caught on video placing a paper cutout of a Ku Klux Klan sign over the police logo on Pool’s raincoat, which had been spread out on a desk. Pool, who had joined the force in 2020, filed a discrimination complaint last fall over the June 2021 incident, in which Campo also placed a cone-shaped hat on his head, paraded around and told Pool he had to wear it on his next call.

Even before that, though, Campo was mocking Torres’ adherence to the Catholic Church’s sabbath and his assiduous observation of Lent, Torres said. Campo also publicly made fun of Torres’ trips to El Salvador, where he helped fund-raise for groups working to alleviate poverty. The chief did things like Photoshop a picture of Torres posing with children from one of his missions to the Central American country, adding a speech bubble with text implying the officer was a pedophile.

Campos also photoshopped Torres’ face onto a Mexican hot sauce bottle, complete with sombrero. These and other images were posted on department bulletin boards that officers had to check daily, and remained there for months, Torres said in his complaint.

“I don’t put away my ethnicity and heritage when I come to work, and I shouldn’t have to hide my religion, either,” said Torres on Tuesday. “My faith and my humanitarian work on my personal time make me a better police officer. I am disappointed that the city I serve is not taking what former Chief Campo did to me more seriously.”

Campo and since then the City of Sheffield have contended he was just yukking it up, which may have resulted in “jokes” that were “inappropriate and in poor taste,” as the city said in its response to his complaint, filed at the end of May.

Torres’ claim “does not describe a hostile environment,” the city said in its official response, adding that Torres did not provide proof that he was “constantly harassed” as his complaint states. The city also said that Torres had not claimed that he suffered “any tangible adverse consequences” while employed with the city.

“Furthermore, while perhaps inappropriate and in poor taste, the alleged images and remarks would not appear to be so offensive to the reasonable person that it would materially affect the terms and conditions of employment,” the city said.

The two cops say they want to make sure no one else goes through what they endured.

“Implementing training on appropriate workplace behavior is an obvious step for the City of Sheffield Lake,” their lawyer, Ashlie Case Sletvold, said. “But it’s not enough: the city must tell the truth about what its former chief did and accept responsibility for the harm his racist harassment caused. The mayor needs to condemn the former chief’s bigotry and offer an unqualified public apology to Officer Torres and Officer Pool.”

City officials did not respond to the Daily News’ requests for comment, and neither did the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, which is reviewing both complaints, as well as another from a third city employee who’s not a cop.

“I know a joke when I hear one,” Torres said Tuesday. “Some are good, and some are bad. This wasn’t a joke. The only joke I see is the city’s response, and no one is laughing.””

NY Daily News, June 21, 2022

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