Count Kent School District Interim Superintendent Israel Vela as another community leader calling for the resignation of Kent Police Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell.
Vela called for Kammerzell’s resignation during his Jan. 12 report to the Kent School Board. He also said the incident of Kammerzell posting a Nazi insignia on his office door could factor into the district’s staff and board decision when its contract with Kent Police to provide school resource officers comes up for next school year.
“While this officer does not work with our students or district we do have a relationship with the city of Kent and the Kent Police Department as a whole,” Vela said. “While the actions of one person do not represent an entire organization, as a public school district we must be thoughtful of the partnerships we enter into. We always seek partners that align with our mission, vision and core values.”
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph called for Kammerzell’s resignation on Jan. 4. Kammerzell and the Kent Police Officers Assocation has not yet responded to the mayor’s request. Police Chief Rafael Padilla suspended Kammerzell for two weeks in July 2021. The incident happened in September 2020. The suspension did not become public until December 2021 when a citizens watchdog group No Secret Police released Public Records Request documents to the media.
In August 2021, the school board on a controversial 3-2 vote approved a contract with Kent Police to provide two officers to split time among Kent-Meridian and Kentridge high schools as well as Mill Creek and Meridian middle schools for the 2021-2022 school year. The Kent City Council unanimously approved the school resource officer program on Aug. 17, 2021. The police and district have operated the program for many years.
“As a staff and board we did not know about this when entering into the school resource officer contract with Kent Police,” said Vela, who added district officials found out in December 2021 from media reports about the Kammerzell incident. “How we move forward will depend on our partner’s response and input from students, families and the community.”
Vela said officers play a leadership role in the schools.
“With racial equity as a central component of safety and security planning, it’s imperative all staff, including our school resource officers who are members of local law enforcement agencies, not contribute to an unsafe environment for KSD students,” Vela said. “We believe every student, family and staff member deserves a respectful, welcoming and inclusive learning environment where their diversity is recognized, valued and contributes to their success.”
Board members Joe Bento and Michele Bettinger voted against the contract with Kent Police in August 2021. Leslie Hamada and then board members Denise Daniels and Maya Vengadasalam voted in favor of the contract.
Bento said he preferred funds be spent on mental health counselors rather than officers and he wanted students to have a chance to share their thoughts about officers in schools.
Bettinger opposed the contract because she said there had not been an opportunity for public input about the issue.