Police officer AJ Torres, left, said his former police chief photoshopped Torres’ face on a jar of hot sauce. Photos via Peiffer Wolf
A former police chief photoshopped his only Latino officer’s face onto a bottle of hot sauce for the amusement of others in the department, a discrimination complaint alleges. The same chief was caught on video putting a KKK sign on a Black officer’s jacket last year.
In the discrimination complaint, police officer AJ Torres says his former boss, then-Sheffield Lake Police Chief Anthony Campo, regularly targeted him for both his race and his religious beliefs before he retired a year ago.
During a press conference with his attorneys Tuesday, Torres explained that Campo photoshopped his head wearing a sombrero onto a bottle of Mexican hot sauce and posted it on the department’s bulletin board. Another time, Campo drew a speech bubble on a photo of Torres standing with two children implying that he was a pedophile, the complaint alleges.
According to the charge of discrimination Torres filed against Campo, when Torres was hired part-time in 2013, the city agreed to give him Sundays off so he could observe the Sabbath and continue his charity work with the Open Hearts Foundation, where he gives children ride-alongs in a police cruiser. The agreement also allowed him to take his annual mission trip to El Salvador with his church.
Torres said Campo regularly tried to make him work on Sundays anyway. He also made fun of him for observing Lent and insulted his charity work. In addition to the two other incidents, Torres says Campo once photoshopped Torres’ head onto the body of a priest with the caption “You want me to work on a Sunday? Oh Hell No!”
In response to Torres’ filing, the city admitted the allegedly racist images and remarks were “perhaps inappropriate and in poor taste,” according to a letter from the city shared with VICE News by the law firm representing Torres. But because Torres didn’t say he “suffered any tangible adverse consequences during the course of his employment,” they determined no punishable discrimination took place.
“I don’t put away my ethnicity and heritage when I come to work, and I shouldn’t have to hide my religion, either,” Torres said in a statement. “My faith and my humanitarian work on my personal time make me a better police officer. I am disappointed that the city I serve is not taking what former Chief Campo did to me more seriously.”
Torres’ complaint now marks the second accusation of discrimination against the former police chief. Last June, Campo was forced to resign after he was caught on video placing a sign with the words “Ku Klux Klan” on the raincoat of the department’s only Black officer. The officer, Keith Pool, said that he had a family member killed by the KKK.
The charge of discrimination filed by Pool last November said that Campo also made a makeshift KKK hat out of paper and wore it in front of him and his colleagues and insisted that he wear it when responding to his next service call. Campo was also accused of telling officers before Pool’s employment that he’d never hire a “n—-r.”
While the city’s mayor, Dennis Bring, called out Campo’s actions after footage of the incident with Pool was made public, the city didn’t take more punitive action against the officer. Campo instead resigned abruptly, and according to reports at the time, talked to the pension board about his benefits.
Ashlie Sletvoid, a partner at Peiffer Wolf and lead counsel for both officers, called the city’s response “embarrassing and disgusting” in a statement.
“The city’s position reveals how Mr. Campo got away with racial harassment for so long: City officials were never willing to hold him accountable,” she said. “It is remarkable that the city continues to defend actions its mayor publicly admitted were egregious and offensive.”
The Sheffield Lake Police Department told VICE News that it does not have any comment regarding Campo’s resignation or the allegations against him.