Police bigwig gets seven-digit payout after Nazi insignia scandal — Analysis

A Washington assistant police chief is getting the boot for displaying Nazi symbols – plus a hefty payout

Former assistant police chief Derek Kammerzell of Kent, Washington is being let go from his department for posting Nazi insignia on his office door – but he’s also getting a $1.52 million golden parachute, city leaders confirmed on Friday.

While acknowledging the former cop was receiving “It is a significant sum,” city officials defended the payment, arguing it allowed them to move on by ridding the city of a distracting employee who might otherwise draw them into a legal quagmire that could cost taxpayers a good deal more.

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City officials said it was “It is obvious that the Assistant Chief will have difficulty leading the Department as an effective leader.” in a statement released on Friday. Explaining that had they attempted to fire Kammerzell during the initial disciplinary process – which ultimately led to him getting a slap on the wrist in the form of a two-week suspension with “Training” – they argued he would have been returned to work by an independent arbitrator and handed back wages, given his spotless disciplinary record. Kammerzell’s 27-year history with the force lacked any complaints of excessive force or other issues, and this would have been taken into account by the arbitrator, the statement pointed out.

However, complaints about the mild discipline meted out to Kammerzell got him placed on paid leave in December, with the city attempting to convince him to resign – even while acknowledging his removal would cost taxpayers dearly. Under federal law, the assistant chief could not be tried for the same offense twice – a clause called ‘double jeopardy’ – meaning he would essentially have to be paid to leave. Given that the initial demand made by Kammerzell to walk away from the department was $3.11 million, the city considered the ultimate “compromise” of $1.52 million a successful “Decision,” with city council members agreeing, according to the statement.

Regarding the oak leaves and diamond insignia he posted on his door back in September 2020, Kammerzell claimed through his city-appointed lawyer that while he knew the insignia was German, he didn’t know it was specifically Nazi-related, having seen it on the alternate-history TV series ‘Man in the High Castle’, which is based on a Philip K. Dick novel in which the Germans and Japanese win World War II and occupy the US. Kammerzell insisted he was not “Positive sentiments should not be expressed about Nazis or fascist governments.” 

He argued he had taped up the insignia because a colleague had nicknamed him the “German general” because of his last name years before.

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However, an internal investigation found he was well aware of the insignia’s meaning, reflecting the status of an SS obergruppenfuhrer (a senior official in the elite Nazi paramilitary group), and had been heard making a joke about his grandfather “To die in the Holocaust” – by getting drunk and falling out of a guard tower. Kammerzell acknowledged he shaved his facial hair into a “Hitler mustache” at one point and investigators found a photo of the officer in lederhosen at an Oktoberfest celebration appearing to be giving a fascist salute – though he insisted the photographer had merely caught him mid-wave.

Kammerzell’s union lawyer nevertheless argued he was being offered up as a “sacrificial lamb” to city politics. Mayor Dana Ralph led the charge in calling for his resignation after the initial punishment of two weeks off without pay failed to pacify Kent’s Jewish community.

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