Police Chief Anthony Campo resigned Tuesday following an incident in which he left a “Ku Klux Klan” sign on a Black officer’s desk, Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring said.
The incident in question, which happened Friday, was captured on surveillance video inside the department’s booking area.
Campo, who has been with the department for 33 years and served as chief for eight, is seen in the video walking into a room with a piece of paper in his hand that says, “Ku Klux Klan.” He walks to a desk and places the note on a yellow jacket laid out to resemble the infamous hood and robe synonymous with the American hate group.
He walks out of the room to wait for the officer, an unidentified Black man, to come into the room.
The officer, who started working for the department nine months ago, walks in and sees the message. It is unclear what the officer and Campo say to one another as the video has no audio. Other people come into the frame and chat with the officer.
Bring said Campo told him the offensive note was a prank. The now-former chief did not return calls Thursday seeking to comment on the incident or his resignation from the department after more than three decades.
“He thought this was just a joke,” Bring said. “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.”
Sheffield Lake Law Director David Graves brought the incident to Bring’s attention Tuesday and characterized it to the mayor as “really serious.”
The union that represents the police brought a harassment complaint to Graves’ office. Bring went straight to Campo’s office after learning about the incident.
“I came into the chief’s office, and he’s standing there with a smile on his face,” Bring said. “He goes, ‘So, am I fired?’”
Graves showed Campo the complaint. Bring told him he had 10 minutes to get out of the office and that he would be on administrative leave until further notice. He asked the chief not to touch anything, hand over the keys to his cruiser, and find a ride home.
Campo then announced that he wanted to resign effective immediately, used his computer to type his resignation letter and left, Bring said. Campo earned a yearly salary of $86,835.43, and it’s unclear as of Friday if resigning from the department instead of waiting for the city to force him out of the position would allow Campo to preserve any retirement benefits Campo accrued during his time with the department.
“He’s no longer an employee. The union who sent the paper (complaint) is satisfied with what we did. I can’t say that he’s not going to have other litigation, I don’t know.”
The officer who received the inappropriate message retained an attorney since the incident. Bring is unsure whether the officer plans to file suit but noted he would back the officer if he were to seek further action against Campo.
Bring had an emotional conversation Wednesday with the officer.
“It took us 10 minutes to talk to each other because we both sat there crying,” he said. “I apologized to him. I can’t describe it in one word. This is not a mistake. This is something so egregious I can’t describe it.”
The officer told Bring that he was so taken aback by his superior’s actions that he just smiled because he didn’t know what to do.
“This shouldn’t happen anywhere,” he said. “You see this stuff on the news all the time, and you’re thinking, ‘How in the hell can somebody be that stupid?’ It’s out there. It’s done. I don’t even speak of his name right now. I told the officer that we can refer to him as ‘ex-chief,’ or ‘ex-employee.’ I don’t even want to hear his name spoken in this department anymore.”
Sgt. Shawn Corr is currently acting chief for the department, Bring said.