A group has asked city officials to investigate the actions of employees who handle Kent’s social media accounts after critical replies to a Twitter post about Kent Police Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell, who posted a Nazi symbol on his office door, were reportedly temporarily hidden.
“I would like to lodge a formal complaint against Tracey Padilla and any other person running the @kentpd Twitter account,” according to an email from a representative of the group No Secret Police to the city of Kent.”The Twitter account unlawfully hid tweets during a critical time of public discussion.”
Tracey Padilla is the wife of Police Chief Rafael Padilla, who issued the two-week suspension of Kammerzell in July 2021. She works as a communications coordinator for the city’s Administration Department, which includes Mayor Dana Ralph and Chief Administrative Officer Derek Matheson, but not the police chief. Tracey Padilla worked 28 years as a Kent Police officer prior to retiring in 2018.
The city and police Twitter accounts posted Jan. 5 a City Council video from its Jan. 4 meeting that had statements from Ralph and Council President Bill Boyce about Ralph’s request to the Kent Police union for Kammerzell’s resignation.
No Secret Police is the group that filed a Public Records Request with the city for documents about the investigation and suspension of Kammerzell. The group released those documents in late December 2021 to the media which led to stories locally, nationally and internationally about the incident.
No Secret Police claims that a reply it posted to Twitter with the city email addresses of Ralph, Chief Padilla and Kammerzell for people to contact was hidden until it reached out to City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick after someone had reported about hidden tweets on the Kent Police account.
“The reply on Twitter NSP (No Secret Police) is questioning that contains contact information was not hidden,” Ralph said in a Jan. 6 email to the Kent Reporter.
Ralph said the city will look into the complaint.
“We have received a formal request for an investigation and that will be reviewed,” she said.
No Secret Police had several email exchanges Jan. 5 with Fitzpatrick, the city attorney, after it reached out to him about the hidden tweets.
“Hello, it appears tweets from the public are being hidden by the city,” according to an email from No Secret Police to Fitzpatrick that was shared by the group with the Kent Reporter. “A member of the public alerted us that the @kentpd Twitter account was hiding tweets critical of the city. This is typically unlawful, but we wanted to reach out to you and see if there is a legal justification that we are unaware of.”
After a couple of shorter responses, Fitzpatrick emailed the following to No Secret Police.
“The City will be unhiding the hidden replies,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is being done in the interest of transparency and robust discussion. The City is reserving the right to hide replies that are profane or promote or are intended to facilitate harm (such as doxing).”
Doxing is publishing private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the internet, typically with malicious intent. Fitzpatrick said posting public emails of public officials isn’t considered doxing.
Ralph said city employees followed policy.
“The City of Kent has a long history of engagement with community using social media,” she said. “I am very proud of the work we have done to grow that communication. We also have a very clear policy laying out our community standards with regards to comments.
“We have followed our policy and have only hidden comments that do not adhere to those community standards. Our policy states the city reserves the right to remove inappropriate comments including…have obscene language or sexual content, defame any person or organization…”
Twitter allows members who post tweets to hide comments they consider inappropriate.
No Secret Police argues that its tweets were not inappropriate.
“We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised, that the Kent Police Department attempted to thwart our attempts to apply public pressure to Mayor Ralph in our effort to get her to reverse her support for Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell,” according to a No Secret Police statement. “We are glad that Mayor Ralph eventually bowed to the public pressure and asked for Mr. Kammerzell’s resignation. We would hope that moving forward the City of Kent and the Kent Police Department will respect our free speech rights, and the rights of all of those who want to speak out on these important issues.”
Ralph said the complaints about hidden tweets takes away from the focus on Kammerzell’s actions to post a Nazi insignia above the nameplate on his office door in September 2020.
“The impact on our ability to discuss the larger issue of Derek Kammerzell has been negatively impacted by the misleading information surrounding the hiding of replies on Twitter,” Ralph said. “All of our employees that handle social media are aware of and follow the city’s social media policy.”
A fellow officer complained to Chief Padilla about the Nazi symbol attributed to a military rank that Kammerzell posted. Padilla lodged an investigation that included an outside law firm. That led to a two-week suspension of Kammerzell for violating city policy prohibiting harassment and discrimination and for unbecoming conduct in violation of police policy, according to a July 14, 2021, Notice of Discipline document issued by Padilla.
Ralph said she had no update from the Kent Police Officers Association or Kammerzell about her request for Kammerzell to resign.