Ohio Police Chief Quits Force To Pursue His KKK-Related Comedy Full Time
Anthony Campo is a practical joker. The chief of the Sheffield Lake Police Department in Ohio was captured on surveillance video placing a note that read "Ku Klux Klan" on a Black officer's raincoat. Wocka! Wocka!
This happened on June 25, and Campo was later placed on
paid vacation administrative leave pending a review. If a Black kid held up a note that read “gun," the police would shoot him in seconds, but Klan humor apparently demands more careful deliberation. Sheffield Lake Mayor Dennis Bring confronted Campo about the incident, which would qualify as creating a hostile work environment even in a 1980s workplace.
From NBC News:
"I said, 'I don't want to even hear about it," Bring said, describing his conversation with Campo. "I said, 'You've already have admitted to it.' And I said, 'You've got 10 minutes to get out of this office.' I said, 'I want your keys, badge and that's it. Get out.' "
Campo, however, claimed in a phone interview with a local news channel that he retired not long after he was placed on leave. He demonstrated no remorse or regret for his actions, which is somewhat consistent with his police training: He said the Klan note was meant as an off-color joke and the whole thing was “overblown." I imagine he'll soon turn up on Tucker Carlson's nightly white rage-fest lamenting “cancel culture." Campo added that he has great respect for the Black officer he punk'd. He even hired him, and I'm sure it wasn't just so he could racially terrorize him during his down time. The Black officer might also make great coffee.
The video shows Campo lying in wait behind a door as the Black officer returns to the office and sees the note. Campo comes out to share a laugh with the Black officer and shows his handiwork to another white cop present. Despite whatever superficial pleasantry the Black officer demonstrated in this shocking moment, he wasn't amused.
Mayor Briggs met with the Black officer to apologize and described a difficult conversation.
"It took us 10 minutes to even talk to each other because we were both very emotional," he said. "And I apologized to him. We talked about the situation and he told me a little bit more. I was just flabbergasted. There's no one word to explain how disgusting this is."
Campo might feel betrayed because the Black officer didn't immediately make a fuss and maybe even smiled blandly while dealing inwardly with his own shock and disappointment. Black people do this all the time when confronting racism in the workplace, especially when we're the only Black person in the room. This wasn't a micro aggression, like someone asking to touch a Black person's hair. It's 2021 and you might assume you don't have to tell white people that jokes about the Klan aren't funny.
In case you've been spared the tyranny of race-conscious public education, the Ku Klux Klan wasn't a traveling Vaudeville act that set the country on fire. It was (and is) a white supremacist terrorist group that literally set Black people on fire. This isn't ancient history, either. In 1981, members of the United Klans of America lynched 20-year-old Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama. They were pissed that an entirely different Black man, Josephus Anderson, wasn't convicted for the death of a white policeman. They believed this was only because there were Black people on the jury. (Mobile is about half Black.)
(TRIGGER WARNING for what follows, seriously.) Henry Hays and James Llewellyn Knowles selected Donald at random, forced him into their car at gunpoint, and drove him to the woods where he was brutally beaten and killed. Hays slit his throat three times to make sure he was dead. The Klansmen left Donald's lifeless body hanging from a tree across the streets from Hays' house. That night, the Klan burned a cross in celebration Mobile County courthouse lawn. This probably still would've been swept under the rug if Donald's grief-stricken mother hadn't contacted Rev. Jesse Jackson, who organized protest marches and demanded justice. It sometimes seems like very little has changed in America since I was seven years old.
The Klan's evil wasn't restricted to the former Confederate states. Ohio was once a sanctuary for enslaved people escaping bondage, but by the early 20th Century, the Buckeye State was believed to have the highest Klan membership in America.
For example, in Summit County, the Klan claimed to have fifty thousand members, making it the largest local chapter in the United States. Many of the county's officials were members, including the sheriff, the Akron mayor, several judges and county commissioners, and most members of Akron's school board. The Klan was also very popular in Licking County, where the group held its state konklave (convention) in 1923 and 1925. More than seventy thousand people attended each event. The konklaves were held at Buckeye Lake, a popular tourist attraction in the early twentieth century.
Campo served on the police force for three decades and was the chief for the past eight years. He thought it was “funny" to joke about the Klan. It's not, which is what the most remedial diversity training would cover, but conservatives fear that might hurt white people's feelings.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."