Kent police chief meets with public after calling for resignation of assistant chief over Nazi insignia

Chief Rafael Padilla of the Kent Police Department spoke for the first time on Wednesday since publicly calling for the resignation of assistant chief Derek Kammerzell, who displayed Nazi insignia on his office door in 2020.

During a regularly scheduled "Coffee With the Chief" event, Padilla answered questions from community members about his request for Kammerzell to step down.

"The reason why we’re calling for, in part to that’s the right thing to do, it’s also a reality thing that says you can’t be a police officer just because. There’s no way to do your job effectively going forward and it will continue to undermine the reputation of our department to have that happen," said Padilla.

Kammerzell was a 27-year veteran with the Kent Police Department. An investigation revealed that Kammerzell displayed a Nazi insignia on his office door in September 2020. 

The insignia was taken down after four days when a detective in the investigations bureau, which Kammerzell commanded, filed a complaint.

Kammerzell currently oversees the department’s patrol division. The police department suspended him without pay for two weeks in July 2021.

Details of the incident were released publicly in late December after a records request to the City of Kent, and public outcry immediately sparked nationwide.

"Transparency means just that. Transparency. Transparency doesn’t mean when something happens then all of a sudden somewhere down the line, ‘[gasp] they found out! Now we’ve got to do something about it’," said Gwen Allen-Carston, the executive director of Kent Black Action Commission.

People who live and work in Kent said they were concerned that Kammerzell’s punishment did not fit his actions. Padilla said he has been listening to the "overwhelming amount of hurt" the situation caused his community.

"We did not have the best outcome based on the decisions we made. And we realize now that we have to do a lot more," said Padilla.

The chief and Mayor Dana Ralph publicly called for Kammerzell’s resignation on January 7. Padilla said they are now processing this request with the Kent Police Officers Association.

RELATED: Assistant police chief disciplined for posting Nazi insignia

"We’re bringing in expert attorneys to resolve this the right way and have it be done. I will assure the community that during this time before his resignation he will have zero contact with the community. He’s not able to function in a role as a police officer while he’s on leave," said Padilla.

Padilla said he is also recruiting help to review the department’s current protocols. 

"So, the question becomes—is there enhancements we need to make or should make? And we’re going to take this outside of us for those recommendations. We’re not going to rely on what we thought was best practices. We are going to look to outside people to come and say this is what you need to do," said Padilla.

The chief said the police force would also participate in sensitivity training.

"We’re going to interject specific awareness regarding our Jewish community, the impacts of the Holocaust, awareness about what that means to people that are both survivors and families of those who were lost in the Holocaust. So, we will bring a greater awareness to our officers," said Padilla.

The chief further mentioned the department regularly participates in other diversity and inclusion sessions throughout the year.

FOX13 News requested comment from the Kent Police Officers Association regarding the city’s call for Kammerzell’s resignation and is awaiting a response.

Get breaking news alerts in the FREE FOX 13 Seattle app. Download for Apple iOS or Android.

Stay connected with FOX 13 News on all platforms:
DOWNLOAD: FOX 13 News and Weather Apps
WATCH: FOX 13 News Live
SUBSCRIBE: FOX 13 on YouTube
DAILY BRIEF: Sign Up For Our Newsletter
FOLLOW: Facebook Twitter Instagram