A second officer from the Sheffield Lake Police Department has come forward with allegations of racist and now religious workplace harassment against the department’s former chief. Officer A.J. Torres alleged that then-chief Anthony Campo repeatedly produced and shared images that belittled his Catholic faith or caricatured his Latino heritage.
“I don’t put away my nationality and my heritage when I come to work, and I shouldn’t have to hide my religion either,” Torres said in a press conference Tuesday.
Torres filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in February.
Officer Torres’ allegations include Campo photoshopping him onto a hot sauce label complete with sombrero and then posting it to the department bulletin board. Torres is the department’s only Latino officer.
He’s also a devout Catholic and claims he faced repeated harassment because of his faith. Attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold described how Torres leads an annual mission trip to El Salvador.
“Campo took a photo from one of those mission trips in which officer Torres is pictured with two young children, and on the photo, Campo added a speech bubble to imply that officer Torres was a pedophile in an obvious reference to the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal,” Sletvold explained.
In its response, the city acknowledged the chief’s conduct was inappropriate and distasteful, but minimized its severity.
“The alleged images and remarks would not appear to be so offensive to the reasonable person that it would materially affect the terms and conditions of employment,” city officials argued.
They went on to claim that because Torres hadn’t faced an “adverse employment action” his discrimination claims should be dismissed.
Last year, Campo resigned after he was caught on video placing a sign that read “Ku Klux Klan” on a different officer’s jacket. That officer, Keith Pool, was the department’s only Black officer at the time. In the immediate aftermath, Sheffield Lake Mayor Denis Bring described how it took 10 minutes to even start to apologize to Pool because they were so emotional.
“There’s no one word to describe how disgusting this is,” Bring said to reporters at the time.
“I don’t even think he fathoms how bad this is, and he’s going to realize it,” Bring went on. “Shame on him, and you know what, I hope he gets whatever he deserves.”
That incident is the subject of a separate Ohio Civil Rights Commission discrimination charge.
Tuesday, Pool spoke alongside Torres to offer his support.
“A year later the City of Sheffield Lake is trying to minimize Mr. Campo’s hateful, and I say hateful, attacks against me and Officer Torres and others,” Pool said. “The city both allowed and enabled Mr. Campo to do this to me and others for years, gaslighting me and acting like Mr. Campo did nothing wrong.”
Campo had been with the department for 33 years and had led it for eight, when he was forced to retire following the incident with Pool. The attorneys expressed skepticism that the personnel files they’ve received so far tell the full story of Campo’s tenure. Sletvold suggested they’ve heard other stories of potential misconduct, and they are still hoping to uncover documentation to substantiate those claims.
Despite the emphasis on Campo’s conduct, though, Sletvold argued the problems go beyond the former chief.
“There has been no diversity equity inclusion training at any time that we can find in Sheffield Lake,” she said. “Shortly after the video of what Campo did to Officer Pool last summer went viral, the fire department immediately implemented such training. But the police department still has not conducted any training and has rejected numerous offers for folks to come in and provide free training.”
Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring did not respond to an email requesting comment.
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