SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio – A second officer has filed a discrimination charge against the city after he says the former police chief harassed him because of his race and religion.
Officer A.J. Torres has filed the allegations with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that he says stem from the actions of the city’s former police chief, Anthony Campo. In one instance, Campo photoshopped Torre’s face onto an image of a bottle of Mexican hot sauce and posted it on the department’s bulletin board, the officer said.
Torres, along with his attorneys Ashlie Case Sletvold and Kevin Conway of the Peiffer Wolf law firm, spoke out Tuesday about the issues he has faced on the department.
“Officer Torres’ life is a testament to his sustained dedication to service, yet Sheffield Lake and its former police chief Campo refuse to treat Officer Torres with the honor and respect that he has earned,” Sletvold said on a video call with reporters. “It is illegal under federal and state law to harass an employee because of race or religion.”
Campo resigned last June after he was seen on video placing a “Ku Klux Klan” sign on the jacket of Officer Keith Pool, who was the only Black officer who served in the department at the time. Campo made a pointed hat, another symbol of the hate group, and placed it on his head. He then paraded around in front of Pool and other officers, according to Pool’s attorneys.
Campo served the department for 33 years, with eight of them as chief.
Pool also has a discrimination charge against the city. Pool has been in law enforcement for more than 38 years, while
Torres has been an officer for more than 35 years. Each has been with other departments. Pool had been with Sheffield Lake for eight months when the KKK incident took place. Torres has been with the city since 2013.
He is the only Latino officer at the department. He detailed his experiences working with Campo, including being mocked about his charity and humanitarian work and his religious practices.
Torres, who is Catholic, said Campo posted a photo of him with two young children. There was a speech bubble that read, “Want to play in the woods, little boys? I won’t hurt you.” The message was to mock the sex scandal of the Catholic Church, but it also implied that Torres was a pedophile, according to attorneys.
When Torres first came to the department, he reached an agreement with officials that he did not have to work Sundays for religious reasons. Campo posted an image of Torre’s face on a priest’s body with a speech bubble that read, “You want me to work on Sundays? Oh, hell no!”
“I am disappointed that the city I serve is not taking what former Chief Campo did more seriously,” Torres said. “I know a joke when I hear one. Some are good, and some are bad. The things that Chief Campo would say about us and the way he made us feel wasn’t a joke.”
Torres and his attorneys spoke to reporters with Pool.
Although the incident happened last year, Pool said it has changed things for him and his family, including his feelings of camaraderie among law enforcement officers.
“The officers are trying to hold each other up, but we get no support from the mayor’s office,” Pool said. “Before this happened, the mayor was good with us, and now he is standoffish. For us to move forward and make change, we have to work together.”
On Tuesday, the attorneys placed blame for Campo’s behavior on the city, as its officials failed to hold him accountable. The attorneys said the city described Campo’s behavior as “inappropriate and in poor taste” but “not so offensive to the reasonable person that it would materially affect the terms and consequences of employment.”
Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reached out to Campo and Mayor Dennis Bring’s office for comment. Bring placed Campo on an administrative leave when the incident with Pool happened last June, but Campo resigned the same day, according to records.
Pool also filed a petition with the Supreme Court for a public records requests that asks the city to release records, including the images that Campo used to mock employees on the basis of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. The request was made on July 31, the city has yet to it fulfill it.
Additionally, the attorneys said, they probed into the police department’s history and discovered that officers have not received training in diversity or equity.
“Here we are nearly a year from when [Pool’s] incident happened. And still there has been no training in the department,” Sletvold said. “They need to come clean about the impact that Campos behavior has had on these distinguished officers.”
Campo was replaced by Andrew Kory, who is now the department’s police chief. Kory became upset with reporters from cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer and declined to answer questions about the department’s lack of diversity and equity training for officers.
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission is investigating Torre’s most recent charge, as well as Pool’s complaint. It is also examining an employee who has come forth with allegations of sexual harassment against Campo, attorneys said.
Torres said he came forward with the complaint so that the city, the police division and other departments across the region will understand that hateful conduct is unacceptable.
“No one needs to go through what Officer Pool, I and others have been through,” Torres said. “We need accountability. We need justice.”