After surveillance video showing a white Ohio police chief leaving a “Ku Klux Klan” note on a Black officer’s raincoat made national news, the identity of the officer remained a mystery.
On Thursday, Sheffield Lake Police Officer Keith Pool came forward to detail the incident in June that resulted in his former boss’s ouster and to allege other encounters that he described as “demeaning.”
The video, obtained over the summer by NBC affiliate WKYC of Cleveland, captured then-Police Chief Anthony Campo standing at the department’s copier and placing the Klan printout on the coat. The KKK was a secretive society organized in the South after the Civil War to assert white supremacy, often using violence.
Pool said in an interview this week that when he returned to his desk, Campo told other officers — all of whom were white — to come see the sign.
“It was not funny to them,” said Pool, 57. “They walked away from it.”
But Campo didn’t stop there, according to Pool and his attorneys, who announced legal action Thursday.
Pool alleged that Campo fashioned a KKK-style hat out of paper and told him he had to wear it on his next call.
“It was so demeaning. It was so disrespectful to me,” he said.
Pool had planned to report the incident, which he knew had been recorded on office surveillance video, but a union representative beat him to it.
He said that he was the first Black officer to work at the agency, which has about 14 officers, and that he had been repeatedly targeted by Campo in his less than a year at the department.
“There was no African Americans applying there,” Pool said.
The first incident happened before he even started work last year.
Instead of sending Pool a picture of his new patrol car, Campo sent him a photo of a vehicle on 20-inch rims with tinted windows, Pool said.
“It said ‘Officer Pool, SRO,’” said Pool, who has been a police officer for 19 years and was previously a school resource officer.
He added: “It threw me. What is he talking about? What is this about?” Even so, Pool joined the department.
Around Halloween, he said, Campo targeted him again, pinning a photo of the Grim Reaper on the bulletin board. Pool’s face was inserted into the picture, which read underneath, “The raccoon reaper.”
“I didn’t understand that, either,” he said.
Pool alleged that after a second Black officer joined the department, the two were sitting in a patrol car when Campo approached them with yet another “tinted window” remark.
“‘It looked like y’all’s windows are tinted,’” Pool quoted Campo as saying. “The windows were open.”
Pool added that Campo had an obsession with pulling over drivers with tinted windows. The practice has been criticized as a way to unfairly target people for “driving while Black.”
Campo also had a history of discriminating against other people in the office based on their gender, sexual orientation and race, said Ashlie Case Sletvold, one of Pool’s attorneys.
Pool’s legal team filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, an initial step in preparation to file a lawsuit. Attorneys also filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to compel the police department to provide records that they say will demonstrate a pattern of race-based harassment involving Campo.
“A lot of people knew about him,” Pool said. “Nothing was done.”
Efforts to reach Campo for comment in July and this week were unsuccessful.
In an interview with WKYC, he previously said that the KKK sign was intended as an off-color joke and that it had been “overblown.” He added that he respected Pool, a characterization Pool disputed.
Pool said he had first been courted by the mayor in 2019 and accused Campo of blocking him from working there.
“He told a detective, ‘Absolutely not,’” he said. “He didn’t want me over there in the first place.”