After facing public backlash for the way an assistant police chief was disciplined after displaying Nazi insignia on his office door, the City of Kent has agreed to pay that same employee a settlement worth more than $1.5 million.
In September 2020, Assistant Chief Derek Kammerzell taped to his office door an insignia that represented the rank of a German World War II general. Another officer in the department reported it, and the insignia was subsequently removed. An investigation regarding the incident was opened and concluded.
After the investigation, Kammerzell was reportedly given a hearing with the city before he received a two-week suspension and was ordered to attend training.
The city said the two-week suspension was determined by an arbitrator who considered Kammerzell’s past record with the department. This reportedly is consistent with how union employees must be disciplined, according to the city.
The city said in a statement regarding the settlement that if the assistant chief had been fired, then he likely would have returned to work as part of the arbitration process. Kammerzell also would have been owed back-pay by the city and would likely have been still given a settlement, according to the city.
“Had the city terminated the assistant chief, it is confident it would have been in no better position than it is now,” according to the city’s statement.
The city said that Kammerzell was placed on administrative leave and was asked to resign in December 2021 in response to public backlash regarding the original discipline he was given.
At that time, the city noted, they would not be able to terminate Kammerzell because of double-jeopardy rules against punishing an employee twice for the same offense.
“As a result, we noted that his resignation would come at a high cost to the city,” the city’s statement read.
City officials had been negotiating a settlement with Kammerzell over the past few months. Kammerzell originally asked for a settlement of over $3 million before being given a settlement of $1.52 million.
Miri Cypers, regional director of Anti-Defamation League of the Pacific Northwest (ADL), issued a statement regarding the city’s settlement with Kammerzell.
“It is deplorable that an officer who displayed Nazi insignia on his office door was given a $1.5 million payout to resign from the force,” the statement reads. “Additionally, the fact that there has been no action to prevent the officer from becoming a police officer in another Washington state community or state is unconscionable and sends the message that using symbols of Nazism is tolerable and may come with a payout.”
The ADL reports it has been in touch with officials at the City of Kent and is working hard to ensure that WA police officers who are associated with extremism or hate-related ideologies are not able to continue serving their community — a community which the ADL said “deserves so much better than to have their trust in law enforcement violated.”