A Ohio police chief retired immediately after he was placed under investigation for leaving a racially intimidating note on the desk of a Black police officer.
Sheffield Lake Police Chief Anthony Campo retired from the department on June 29 after he became the subject of an internal investigation for leaving a note containing the words “Ku Klux Klan” on the desk of Black officer. Campo had been with the department in the Cleveland suburb for 33 years and served as chief for eight.
Footage from June 25 shows Campo leaving the note on the officer’s coat in the booking room.
Campo displayed a jacket intended to look like the robes worn by KKK members, placed the KKK sign on the jacket then waited for the officer to walk in and see the display. The surveillance camera captured the Black officer read the offensive message and laugh. Other officers can also be seen walking by reading the note.
Mayor Dennis Bring said he became aware of the note on June 30, when law director David Graves informed him of a “real bad” complaint from the police union.
“I just looked at it and said, what’s this all about?” the mayor told The Morning Journal. “And he goes, ‘you aren’t even going to believe this.'”
The complaint said that Campo had retrieved the note from the copy machine, then walked over and put it on the officer’s desk.
“It said Ku Klux Klan on the back,” Bring said. “I don’t know how much more offensive you can possibly get.” According to Bring, Campo believes the note is just a joke and doesn’t understand why people are upset, but the Black officer was clearly made to feel uncomfortable by the note.
“How can you possibly think that you can put something on somebody’s jacket like that, and especially if they were African-American, and think this is a joke? This is the most egregious and offensive thing you could possibly do. And it’s embarrassing and disgusting.”
Bring took steps right away to place Campo on leave and had plans to terminate him. When Campo learned of the harassment complaint against him, he said, “So am I fired?” and began to type his resignation letter.
“He says, ‘This is what I get up to 30 years,'” the mayor said. “I said what you’re going to get is 10 minutes to get out of your office.”
Bring ultimately allowed Campo to submit his retirement papers. Officials are looking through the chief’s computer to see if there is anything else of concern on the device. Bring apologized to city staff and had a conversation with the Black officer who was the recipient of the note. The officer expressed a desire to stay with the department and said that the laugh he let out upon seeing the note was a gut reaction.
The Black officer has been with the department for less than a year. He has since retained an attorney, and Bring said he would back the officer if he decides to take further action against Campo.
Campo said the note was meant to be funny. “That’s all it was,” Campo said. “I had a joking back-and-forth banter with that officer since I hired him,” he said.
But Cleveland NAACP President James Hardiman believes the note is no laughing matter.
“It’s significant because it’s indicative of a much bigger problem. For a person in a position of responsibility to assume that he can get away with that, it’s tragic. Is this an isolated instance? Or, was this accepted protocol until he got caught?” James Hardiman told Fox8.