Derek Kammerzell

Derek Kammerzell

Jewish Federation ‘horrified’ at actions of Kent Police assistant chief

Group wants city officials to take stronger disciplinary step to posting of Nazi symbol on door

Kent city officials need to publicly recognize the harm and hurt caused to the Jewish community by an assistant police chief posting a Nazi insignia on his office door and “treat the offenses with the seriousness and care they deserve,” according to The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

The group wants city officials to revisit the incident, their reaction and just a two-week suspension.

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and its Jewish Community Relations Council are horrified to learn of the actions of Assistant Kent Police Chief Derek Kammerzell,” according to a Jan. 4 statement. “By elevating and honoring Nazi imagery and titles and joking about the Holocaust, Kammerzell is supporting the extermination of six million Jews, including one million children, and five million other vulnerable individuals.”

Kammerzell received a two-week suspension in July 2021 by Police Chief Rafael Padilla after displaying the Nazi symbol above the nameplate on his office door.

“This is an affront to the entire Puget Sound Jewish community and inexcusable,” according to the statement from The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. “Synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Jewish organizations rely on law enforcement to help protect them from violent, antisemitic attacks.

“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. The absence of true accountability demanded of Kammerzell and the sheer lack of consequences in this situation are shocking.”

Kammerzell, a 27-year veteran of the department, was suspended for violating city policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination and for unbecoming conduct in violation of police policy. Padilla took the action after Kammerzell posted the insignia attributed to a Nazi military rank, according to a July 14, 2021, Notice of Discipline document issued by Padilla to Kammerzell.

Padilla wrote in the disciplinary report that he did not find that Kammerzell violated the department’s truthfulness policy by saying he was unaware of the Nazi connection to the symbol.

In a statement released last week to the Kent Reporter by the city of Kent on behalf of Mayor Dana Ralph and Padilla, it backed up the two-week suspension.

“The City of Kent hired an independent law firm that has extensive experience in employee investigations to investigate thoroughly the alleged conduct of Assistant Police Chief Derek Kammerzell,” according to a Dec. 28 statement released by the city’s communications staff. “The city then hired a second employment law firm to review the investigation and recommend appropriate discipline. Based on labor law and the advice of the employment law firm, the city believes a two-week suspension was an appropriate and defensible response to the conduct identified in the investigation.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and its Jewish Community Relations Council disagreed.

“The City of Kent’s response demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the impact of these acts by one of its assistant police chiefs on our local Jewish community,” according to The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. “We call on the City of Kent to immediately revisit the situation, publicly recognize the harm and hurt caused to our Jewish community, and treat the offenses with the seriousness and care they deserve.”

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