Black Ohio police officer whose white chief put KKK note on his coat breaks his silence
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 June incident that resulted in his former boss’ ouster and other alleged encounters that he described as “demeaning.”
The footage, 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.
In an interview this week with NBC News, Pool said when he returned to his desk, Campo allegedly told other officers — all of whom were white — to come see the sign.
“It was not funny to them,” Pool, 57, said. “They walked away from it.”
But Campo didn’t stop there, according to the officer and his attorneys, who announced legal action in the case on Thursday.
Pool said Campo allegedly 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 captured on office surveillance video, but a union rep beat him to it.
He said he had been repeatedly targeted by Campo in his less than a year at the department, and was the first Black officer to work at the agency, which has about 14 officers.
“There was no African Americans applying there,” Pool said.
The first incident happened before he even started to work at the department in 2020.
Campo, instead of sending Pool a picture of his new patrol car, sent him a photo of a vehicle on 20-inch rims with tinted windows, according to the officer.
“It said ‘Officer Pool, SRO,’” said Pool, who has been a police officer for 19 years and previously served as a school resource officer.
He added: “It threw me. What is he talking about? What is this about?” Despite the alleged incident, 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.”
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“I didn’t understand that either,” he said.
After a second Black officer joined the department, Pool said the two were sitting in a patrol car when Campo allegedly approached them with yet another “tinted window” remark.
He said, “‘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, Ashlie Case Sletvold, one of Pool’s attorneys, said.
That is why Pool’s legal team filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, an initial step in preparation for filing a lawsuit. Attorneys also filed a petition with the state’s High 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.”
NBC News' efforts to reach Campo 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 had been “overblown.” He added that he respected Pool, a characterization the officer 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."