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State Troopers Disciplined for Photo Prank Involving Ku Klux Klan Costume

A highway patrolman who was photographed in a handmade Ku Klux Klan costume while on duty the day before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday has been suspended without pay, authorities said.

A fellow trooper who transmitted the cell-phone photo of white-masked lawman has been demoted.

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 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.

Franklin and Trooper Eric Wlodarsky told an investigator that the picture was taken as a joke 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 that included two photographs of Franklin in the outfit, an interoffice memo said.

Franklin, Wlodarsky, another trooper and a dispatcher discussed Martin Luther King Jr. Day at their post on the day the photo was taken, the report said. The national holiday was the following day.

None of the 13 troopers assigned to the Sandusky post are black.

"Obviously, we're extremely disappointed," said patrol spokesman Lt. Shawn Davis. "This kind of conduct cannot and will not be tolerated."

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

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