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Jewish community outraged over settlement with assistant Kent police chief disciplined over Nazi symbol

Derek Kammerzell initially had two weeks of vacation time revoked, before public outrage prompted Kent's mayor to call for the former assistant chief's resignation.

Jewish community leaders are expressing outrage over a settlement between the City of Kent and a former assistant police chief who was disciplined for displaying a Nazi insignia on his office door. 

The city settled with Derek Kammerzell for $1.5 million to get him to walk away from his job at the Kent Police Department. 

"I'm just wondering how I'm going to explain to children as an educator that someone is going to be given all this money for doing something wrong," said Principal of the Seattle Hebrew Academy Rivy Kletenik. 

Derek Kammerzell initially was given a two-week unpaid suspension while the Kent Police Department investigated before public outcry led Kent Mayor Dana Ralph to ask for the assistant chief's resignation.

An independent investigation found that in September 2020, Kammerzell posted a Nazi insignia on his office door. There were additional allegations that Kammerzell made jokes about the Holocaust.

"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 back in January regarding why Kammerzell was not fired by the department. "We acted in what we believed was the most legally defensible position."

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In order to get Kammerzell to leave the department the city was required to negotiate a settlement with his attorney. The city has been actively negotiating with Kammerzell's representatives since that investigation concluded in February 2021, and the two sides reached a settlement this week in the amount of $1,520,000.

"How can anyone see that as something other than rewarding bad behavior?" Kletenik said.

Ralph and Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla later acknowledged they strongly underestimated the backlash that would come with not firing Kammerzell, and gave a detailed explanation through a video message as to why their hands were tied on terminating the former assistant chief.

City leadership added in the statement about the settlement that they have had active conversations with local Jewish organizations and are committed to "learn and grow from this experience."

 The Anti-Defamation League said in a statement: 

"It is deplorable that an officer who displayed a Nazi insignia on his office door was given a $1.5 million payout to resign from the force. 

"ADL has been in touch with officials at the City of Kent to ensure that police officers who are associated with extremism or hate-related ideologies are not able to continue serving their community."

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