Former Sheffield Lake chief facing new discrimination claims

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Officer AJ Torres claims then-chief Anthony Campo repeatedly produced and shared images that belittled his Catholic faith or caricatured his Latino heritage.

SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio — A second officer with the Sheffield Lake Police Department has made allegations of racist and now religious workplace harassment against the former head of the department.

Officer AJ 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 aside my nationality and my heritage when I come to work, nor should I have to hide my religion,” Torres said at a press conference on Tuesday.

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Torres filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in February.

Officer Torres’ allegations include Campo photographing him on a hot sauce label with sombrero and then posting it on the department bulletin board. Torres is the only Latino officer in the department.

He is also a devout Catholic and claims to have been harassed on several occasions because of his faith. Lawyer Ashlie Case Sletvold described how Torres leads an annual mission trip to El Salvador.

“Campo took a photo of one of those mission trips in which Officer Torres is pictured with two young children, and in the photo Campo added a speech bubble to imply that Officer Torres was a pedophile in an obvious reference to the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal,” Sletvold explained.

In its response, the city acknowledged that the chief’s conduct was inappropriate and distasteful, but downplayed its seriousness.

“The alleged images and remarks would not appear so offensive to the reasonable person that they would materially affect the terms of employment,” city officials argued.

They went on to say that because Torres did not face “adverse employment action”, her claims of discrimination should be dismissed.

Last year, Campo quit after he was filmed placing a sign reading “Ku Klux Klan” on another officer’s jacket. This officer, Keith Pool, was the only black officer in the department at the time. Immediately afterwards, Sheffield Lake Mayor Denis Bring described how it took 10 minutes to even begin to apologize to Pool for being so emotional.

“There are no words to describe how disgusting it is,” Bring told reporters at the time.

“I don’t even think he understands how bad it is, and he’s going to realize it,” Bring continued. “Shame on him, and you know what, I hope he gets what he deserves.”

This incident is the subject of a separate discrimination charge from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. On Tuesday, Pool spoke alongside Torres to offer his support.

“A year later, the City of Sheffield Lake is trying to downplay Mr. Campo’s hateful, and I mean hateful, attacks on me and Constable Torres and others,” Pool said. “The city both authorized and allowed Mr. Campo to do this to me and others for years, gaslighting me and acting like Mr. Campo had done nothing. of badness.”

Campo had been with the department for 33 years and led it for eight years when he was forced to retire following the incident with Pool. Lawyers have expressed skepticism that the personnel files they have received so far tell the full story of Campo’s tenure. Sletvold suggested they had heard other stories of potential misconduct, and they still hope to uncover documents to back up those allegations.

Despite the focus on Campo’s conduct, however, Sletvold argued the issues go beyond the former leader.

“At no time has there been any diversity equity inclusion training that we could 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 hasn’t not organized any training and rejected many offers for people to come and give free training.”

Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Read more: Ohio Capital Journal


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