2nd cop files discrimination charge over ex-chief who left KKK note
A.J. Torres, a Latino and Catholic officer, said former Chief Anthony Campo left notes suggesting Torres was a pedophile
By Heather Chapin
The Morning Journal, Lorain, Ohio
SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio — A nine-year veteran of the Sheffield Lake Police Department has filed a discrimination charge against the city claiming racial and religious harassment.
Nearly a year after former police Chief Anthony Campo was fired by Mayor Dennis Bring for targeting Officer Keith Pool with comments and actions regarding the Ku Klux Klan, another officer came forward about similar allegations.
"Nobody ever said anything because we wanted our jobs," said Officer A.J. Torres, a Latino officer who's been a part-time officer with the Sheffield Lake Police Department for nine years.
But, after witnessing what his fellow officer went through, Torres said, "I had to come forward."
Torres' civil rights charge of discrimination was filed against the City of Sheffield Lake with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, according to a news release issued by his attorney.
He said an anti-religious attack and accusations of pedophilia leveled against him by Campo was what really hurt him.
"Campo also posted a photo of Torres, a devout Catholic, with two young children and a speech bubble implying Torres was a pedophile," stated a news release issued by a law firm representing Torres.
Torres, Pool and two attorneys spoke publicly during a news conference June 21 confirming the discrimination claims through an internet conference hosted by the law firm.
Torres said he also was targeted by Campo when he allegedly photoshopped Torres' face onto an image of a Mexican hot-sauce bottle and posted it on a bulletin board at the police station
"The former chief also posted a photo of Officer Torres with two young children and a speech bubble Campo wrote, that read 'want to play in the woods little boys I won't hurt you,' to imply Torres was a pedophile," the release stated.
"I know a joke when I hear one," Torres said. "... This wasn't a joke."
The firm also represents Keith Pool, a Black officer with the Sheffield Lake Police Department for the past eight months, who also alleged harassment based on racial bias.
Pool filed a discrimination charge against the city last year after a "viral video of a June 25, 2021 incident showed Chief Campo placing a ' Ku Klux Klan' sign on the officer's jacket and then donning a paper Ku Klux Klan hat," according to the release.
Both officers spoke about the Police Department's lack of training since the discrimination and alleged abuse of the former police chief.
Campo could not be reached for comment.
"It happened on the mayor's watch," said Ashlie Case Sletvold, an attorney.
"The system is broken in this community," Case Sletvold said, adding the city should be held accountable for allowing the hateful acts to occur.
Bring said he is frustrated with the officers and the attorneys' claims because he feels he has done everything possible to help lead the Police Department forward in a positive route through continued training, additional and upgraded equipment, and other changes made in the last year.
"Campo was gone 10 minutes after I heard about this (2021 incident regarding Pool)," he said. "...I don't think the city deserves this."
In retrospect, the mayor said he regrets that the officers didn't report the incidents sooner because he sympathizes with both of them.
"I feel very bad about this," Bring said.
However, attorney Kevin Conway said the city allowed Campo to continue his behavior.
"If it wasn't bad enough that the former police chief was engaged in rampant workplace harassment, now the city that hired him is trying to minimize his revolting racial and religious discrimination," Conway said. "The city of Sheffield Lake will face a reckoning for both its and its former police chief's despicable behavior."
Since Campo is being sued for incidents that occurred while under the city's employment, the city has no choice but to represent him, Bring said.
"I do not condone his behavior," the mayor said. "Like I said, I fired him within 10 minutes of hearing about it."
As far as the training of the Police Department, Bring said it has had all required training conducted, specifically rule changes about professional conduct in the workplace.
"There's no joking, swearing, nothing allowed now," he said of the news policies implemented. "It's strictly professional conduct."
Torres said he is disappointed the city of Sheffield Lake didn't do more.
"I don't put away my ethnicity and heritage when I come to work, and I shouldn't have to hide my religion, either," he said. "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."
Torres retired from the Ohio State Highway Patrol in 2013.
Along with the new charge by Torres, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission currently is investigating Pool's charge as well as a charge "of another employee who accuses the former chief of sexual harassment," the release stated.
Pool also "filed a mandamus petition with the Ohio Supreme Court to compel his employer to produce public records, including images the former chief created and posted mocking employees on the basis of race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.
Pool requested these records July 31, 2021, but the city has not provided them, the release stated.
That case is pending.
"We have given them everything," Bring said. "We have even invited them in there."
Torres and Pool are represented by Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway and Wise, a nationwide law firm with offices in Cleveland, Youngstown, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Louis, Austin and New Orleans.
Case Sletvold, a partner at the firm, is lead counsel for Torres.
(c)2022 The Morning Journal, Lorain, Ohio