Mayor Dana Ralph has called for the resignation of Kent Police Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell after strong reaction from the community to just a two-week suspension for Kammerzell after he posted a Nazi insignia above his nameplate on his office door.
Ralph began the Kent City Council meeting Tuesday night with a statement about Kammerzell after news reports over the last several days revealed the incident that occurred in September 2020 and resulted in his suspension in July 2021.
“This is honestly an issue that has rocked our community over the past several days,” Ralph said about numerous media reports and first reported Dec. 30 by the Kent Reporter.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and its Jewish Community Relations Council earlier on Tuesday asked city officials to revisit the issue.
“The two-week suspension and sensitivity training given in response are completely inadequate, especially at a time when incidents of hate against the Jewish people are higher than they’ve been in almost 45 years,” according to a statement from the group. “The absence of true accountability demanded of Kammerzell and the sheer lack of consequences in this situation are shocking.”
Ralph said others also contacted her directly with concerns.
“While we are confident the city followed best practices by promptly investigating the conduct of Derek Kammerzell and imposing discipline, it is clear that the process did not produce the result acceptable to our community or quite honestly, me,” Ralph said as she read her statement.
Following an investigation by an outside law firm, Police Chief Rafael Padilla made the decision about the two-week suspension without pay, but gave Kammerzell the option to use vacation hours.
“Earlier this afternoon in consultation with the chief, I’ve instructed our city attorney to reach out to the union’s attorney and ask for Derek Kammerzell’s resignation,” Ralph said. “While there will be a cost associated with this, I believe that this is a necessary step to continue to build trust within our city and across the region.”
Kammerzell, who began his police career in Kent in 1994, said in an email to the Kent Reporter last week that he was “deeply embarrassed by this incident.”
The results of an investigation into Kammerzell’s actions and Padilla’s discipline report were released last week to a Kent group called No Secret Police, which filed a public disclosure request to get the documents. The group then emailed those documents last week to the media. City and police officials did not release any information to the public about the incident or suspension of Kammerzell last summer.
“I wish I could take it back,” Kammerzell said to the Kent Reporter. “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 denied to an investigator that he knew the symbol had a connection to Nazism. What Kammerzell posted represents the rank of insignia of an Nazi SS general called SS-Obergruppenfuhrer.
Ralph said she appreciated the community feedback.
“I want to say a heartfelt deep thank you to those of you who have reached out and shared your stories with me, your personal stories and the impact this has had on you and your families,” Ralph said. “The city and I have worked extremely hard in our anti-racist efforts and I don’t want to undo the great work that has been done. I believe that today’s actions reflect the values that we hold collectively as a city, as a police department and as a community and they show a commitment to make Kent a place where everyone feels welcome and heard.”
Ralph concluded with a few final words.
“It was a very tough decision but I believe it is the right one for our community and us moving forward,” she said.
After Ralph finished her statement, Council President Bill Boyce read a statement from the council.
“The council condemns racism in all forms and while the council is extremely disappointed in Assistant Chief Kammerzell’s conduct, we don’t believe his conduct reflects the culture of the Kent Police Department,” Boyce said.
As of early Wednesday and press deadline, the Kent Police Officers Association and Kammerzell had not responded to an email from the Kent Reporter for comment about Ralph’s call for his resignation.