Ohio Troopers Suspended After KKK-Like Costume Photo Prank

A highway patrolman dressed in a handmade Ku Klux Klan-like outfit while on duty was suspended without pay, while another trooper who forwarded a cell phone photo of the trooper in the costume has been demoted, authorities said.

Craig Franklin, a 12-year veteran of the Ohio Highway Patrol, is pictured in the Jan. 20 photo with a white cone on his head, white paper mask with eye holes and a white cloth covering his shoulders, according to a highway patrol report.

Franklin is otherwise in trooper uniform. A handgun holster, a radio normally issued by the patrol and other police equipment can be seen in the photo, the report said.

Click here to see the photo.

Franklin and Trooper Eric Wlodarsky told an investigator that the picture was taken as a joke while both were on duty at the patrol's Sandusky post and was modeled on a television skit by comedian Dave Chappelle.

Highway patrol officials began an investigation after the patrol's Administrative Investigative Unit received an anonymous letter, postmarked Jan. 22 from Mansfield, that included two photographs of Franklin in the outfit, an interoffice memo said.

"What a way to represent the Ohio State Highway Patrol!" said a note included in the envelope.

Franklin, Wlodarsky, another trooper and a dispatcher discussed Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the post on the day the photo was taken, the report said. The national holiday took place the following day. None of the 13 troopers assigned to the Sandusky post are black.

Wlodarsky told an investigator there was no malicious intent behind the picture, while Franklin apologized and said he was embarrassed by the incident, Sgt. Jeffrey P. Bernard wrote in the report. Franklin wore the outfit for about a minute, then threw it away, the report said.

"Obviously we are extremely disappointed in their actions," Sgt. Craig Cvetan, a spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol told FOXNews.com. "As a division we will not and cannot any tolerate any conduct of this nature."

Department of Public Safety director Henry Guzman intended to fire both men based on the investigation. But under a union contract-mandated "last chance discipline agreement," they can keep their jobs if they maintain a clean behavorial record for the next two years.

Following a March 24 hearing, Wlodarsky was demoted from sergeant to trooper, transferred to the Norwalk post and must attend a diversity awareness class. Franklin was placed on a five-day unpaid suspension, and also must take part in diversity awareness training, patrol documents showed.

A third trooper who received the picture via text message was given a one-day suspension for failing to report the incident and forwarding the photo to a subordinate.

None of the troopers had been in trouble prior to the incident, patrol documents showed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.