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Kent leaders work to regain community trust after assistant police chief displayed Nazi insignia

Mayor Dana Ralph said the city is in the process of negotiating Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell's resignation.

KENT, Wash. — A Kent assistant police chief at the center of an investigation is still employed with the city, but Mayor Dana Ralph said they are in the process of negotiating his resignation. 

An independent investigation found that in September of 2020, Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell posted a Nazi insignia on his office door. There were also allegations that he made jokes about the Holocaust.  

RELATED: Kent mayor asks for assistant police chief's resignation for displaying Nazi insignia

Assistant Chief Kammerzell oversees Kent Police Department's investigations division.

"He does not deserve to be an employee of the city of Kent. He does not deserve to be a police officer," said Ralph.

Kent's mayor and police chief issued a video statement Friday night about the assistant chief.

"The employee made an inappropriate joke about his grandfather dying during the Holocaust," said Chief Rafael Padilla.

Padilla referenced other allegations, including a report that Kammerzell showed an employee a photo of himself with a Hitler mustache.

"He was untruthful about knowing that the rank insignia... was attributable to a Nazi SS general rank," said Padilla.

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"Throughout the last several days it has become quite clear to me that our community, that our region, is hurting, and your trust in us has been damaged, and our response in handling this situation has fallen short," said Ralph, in the video statement.

The allegations were the focus of an independent investigation that resulted in a report completed Feb. 3, 2021. About a month later, the assistant chief was placed on paid administrative leave.

Mayor Ralph said the assistant chief was punished with a two-week suspension where the city took back two weeks of his vacation time, a financial penalty of about $7,000.

"We also took the advice of our outside legal counsel that under Washington State law, there was not enough, given no history of discipline, that he would be terminated," said Ralph. "We acted in what we believed was the most legally defensible position."

Outrage followed. A citizen watchdog group that made public records requests posted about it on social media. People called and emailed City Hall.

During last week's Kent City Council meeting, the mayor called for the assistant chief's resignation.

"I've spoken to so many of our officers and it's not who they are. It's not who they want to be. They are not supportive of this behavior," said Ralph.

The mayor said the focus now is on rebuilding the community's trust. The city is working with groups like the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle to set up what the city is calling listening sessions with the community.

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