The city of Kent in Washington will pay an assistant police chief more than $1.5 million to resign after he displayed a Nazi symbol on his office door and joked about the Holocaust.
For his actions, Derek Kammerzell had initially been disciplined with two weeks of administrative leave—which is supposed to come without pay—for harassment, discrimination, and conduct unbecoming of a police officer. But the 27-year veteran of the force used vacation time, which allowed him to receive pay despite the disciplinary action.
The $1.52 million settlement was reached between the city and Kammerzell’s legal team last week after four months of negotiations.
“While this is a substantial sum, we strongly believe that settling this matter will be a substantial step towards meeting our commitment to the community and continuing with the excellent work the police department is doing,” the city said in a statement.
In September 2020, Kammerzell placed an SS “Obergruppenführer,” a high-ranking military insignia used in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, on his office door. The mark allegedly stayed on the door for two weeks until it was reported to a superior and taken down.
Kammerzell, who is of German heritage, insisted he didn’t know the symbol was associated with Nazi Germany—only that it appeared on the television show “The Man in the High Castle.” An internal department investigation found his claim to be insufficient; the show’s premise is about an alternate version of history where Nazi Germany won World War II.
Kent Mayor Dana Ralph called for Kammerzell’s resignation in January after news of the light punishment was widely reported.
But if the city had fired him, he likely would have won his job back through arbitration, the statement from the city said; Kammerzell had a clean record free of discipline and excessive force prior to his offense.
Specifically, had Kammerzell appealed his termination, it would have likely cost the city more in the long run because it would have been forced to pay back wages for any time not worked during the arbitration process.
Kammerzell originally asked for $3.1 million, according to the city.
Despite his clean record, Kammerzell had a history of Nazi-related complaints, according to the city’s investigation. In 2019, he was photographed doing a Nazi salute during an Oktoberfest celebration, and another time sporting a Hitler mustache while participating in Movember. Kammerzell had also allegedly made jokes about his grandfather dying in the Holocaust because he got drunk and fell out of a guard tower.
The lengthy and expensive arbitration process has provided a safety net for other officers accused of wrongdoing. In April, Buffalo officers filmed pushing an elderly man down during a 2020 protest, fracturing his skull, earned their jobs back after a department arbitrator ruled their actions were justified. In Rancho Cordova Police Department in California, an officer who was filmed punching a 14-year-old during an encounter two years ago was also quietly reinstated by a department arbitrator.
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