Sheffield Lake police Chief Anthony Campo retired from the Police Department on June 29 after 33 years, and after placing a note containing the words “Ku Klux Klan” on the raincoat of a Black officer, according to officials.
Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring voiced his displeasure with Campo in a phone interview July 1 with The Morning Journal.
Bring said he became aware of the incident at 10 a.m., June 30, when law director David Graves stepped into his office holding a printed complaint from the police union that was “real bad.”
“I just looked at it and said, what’s this all about?” the mayor said. “And he goes, you aren’t even going to believe this.”
The complaint documented the incident in which Campo walked over to the copier, printed off the note and placed it on top of the officer’s raincoat.
“It said Ku Klux Klan on the back,” Bring said. “I don’t know how much more offensive you can possibly get.
“And (Campo) thought it was a joke. He continues to think it.
“He says, ‘I don’t understand what everybody’s all upset about. This was just a joke.’
“I don’t know what was going through that man’s mind. I don’t have a clue. And like I said, that’s what he keeps saying. I think everybody else’s views of what he did is not a joke.”
Bring moved immediately to place Campo on administrative leave and initially was going to terminate him, before allowing him to submit his retirement papers.
In a conversation with Campo, Bring said the former chief didn’t take the incident seriously and still believes he considers it a joking matter.
“When we went down to the police chief’s (Campo) office, he was standing there and he jokingly said to me, ‘what am I fired?’” Bring said.
Handing him the administrative leave papers, Bring said he gave Campo 10 minutes to leave the premises and that he was “dumbfounded” by what he had heard.
“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.
“I said I want your car keys, badge, the keys for the office, and I need you to get a ride home and remove yourself.”
Flabbergasted, Bring said he went around apologizing to city staff and had an emotional conversation with the officer who was targeted in the incident.
The mayor said tears were shed, and the officer expressed his desire to stay with the Police Department.
Bring said he made it clear the city of Sheffield Lake will support the officer in whatever he needs to do.
“Obviously, he’s very upset,” Bring said.
The mayor said he and the officer had a good conversation and encouraged him not to read too much into his initial reaction of the racial incident.
The officer, Bring said, was so taken off guard by what happened that he was chuckling as a gut reaction.
“I just hope everybody understands that we acted fast,” Bring said. “I want everyone to understand that this is not our city.
“These are the actions of one individual.”
Bring said he was extremely disappointed in Campo’s actions.
Reached for comment, Campo said he absolutely is not a racist and that he is sorry for anyone he offended.
He said the incident was his attempt at humor.
“That’s all it was,” Campo said. “I had a joking back and forth banter with that officer, since I hired him.”
Campo reiterated that he gave the officer in question a job when he was facing mandatory age retirement and called the situation overblown.
He noted he plans to issue a statement to the community apologizing for his actions.
Sgt. Shawn Corr currently is serving as acting chief.
Bring said the city will move to select a permanent chief through civil service testing process.