Kammerzell negotiations with city of Kent expected to be ‘lengthy process’

Assistant police chief on paid administrative leave as union, city begin talks

It’s expected to be a “lengthy process” as Kent city officials begin negotiations with the Kent Police union over the future employment of Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell.

“I can tell you that we are just getting started with negotiations, and expect it to be a lengthy process,” City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick said in a Jan. 20 email in response to questions from the Kent Reporter. “In the meantime, he remains on paid administrative leave.”

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph on Jan. 4 asked the Kent Police Officers Association for Kammerzell’s resignation. Police Chief Rafael Padilla suspended Kammerzell for two weeks in July 2021 after he posted a Nazi insignia on his office door in September 2020, as reported by a co-worker, which led to an investigation by an outside law firm.

The incident and suspension didn’t become public until December 2021 when a citizens watchdog group named No Secret Police received the disciplinary report against Kammerzell from a Public Records Act request and sent the documents to media outlets.

After public outcry that Kammerzell, a 27-year veteran of the force, still worked for the police department, Ralph asked for his resignation and Padilla said he would never work for the department again. City and police officials did not release any information when Padilla suspended Kammerzell in July 2021, despite his high ranking as one of three assistant chiefs.

Fitzpatrick declined to answer numerous other questions from the Kent Reporter, including what range of time “lengthy” means and the potential settlements that could be discussed.

“I appreciate your desire for more information,” Fitzpatrick said. “As noted, we are just getting started with the process. I may be able to answer your questions more thoroughly at a later time.”

Wayne Graff, president of the Kent Police Officers Association, has not replied to numerous emails for comment since Ralph asked for Kammerzell’s resignation.

Fitzpatrick declined to say which individuals will be involved in the negotiations.

When Padilla held a pre-disciplinary meeting with Kammerzell on July 12, 2021, the attendees from the union included Graff; Ken Clay, an executive board director with the Kent Police Officers Association; and two union attorneys from the Tacoma-based law firm McGavick Graves. Present for the city were Fitzpatrick and outside counsel from the Seattle-based Summit Law Group.

After an investigation by an outside law firm into Kammerzell’s actions, Padilla suspended him for violating city policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination and for unbecoming conduct in violation of police policy. He was suspended without pay, but given the option to use two weeks of vacation pay.

Fitzpatrick declined to answer what impact that Kammerzell had already been disciplined for his actions would have on negotiations with the union now that the city wants his resignation.

Meanwhile, former Kent City Councilmember Dennis Higgins and Kent School District Interim Superintendent Israel Vela have asked for Kammerzell’s resignation. Higgins said Kammerzell should resign immediately without protest to help the police department restore its trust again. Vela said Kammerzell’s actions could impact whether the district renews a contract later this year with the Kent Police to provide school resource officers for next school year.

Kammerzell has not made any public statements since his Dec. 3o email to the Kent Reporter that included the following statement:

“I am deeply embarrassed by this incident,” Kammerzell said. “I wish I could take it back. I know now what that rank represents, and that is not what I value or who I am. The expectations for an assistant chief are, rightfully, incredibly high. I do my best every day to meet and exceed those expectations.”

Kammerzell made that statement after the news about the violation and suspension first broke. Ralph had not yet asked for Kammerzell’s resignation, but instead backed up the two-week suspension by Padilla.

Kammerzell was asked Dec. 30 if he thought the two-week suspension was fair.

“I do,” he said. “I did not challenge this discipline and accepted it immediately. I will work the rest of my career at KPD to overcome this singular mistake.”