The city of Kent, a suburb of Seattle, will pay $1,520,000 to former assistant police chief Derek Kammerzell if he agrees to go away quietly. This after disciplining Kammerzell for posting the rank insignia of an SS Obergruppenfuhrer above the nameplate on his office door and joking about the Holocaust.
Kammerzell took down the insignia after four days because of a complaint that was filed by a detective in the Investigations Bureau.
Obergruppenführer was one of the Third Reich’s paramilitary ranks that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the Sturmabteilung and adopted by the Schutzstaffel (SS) one year later. Until April 1942, it was the highest commissioned SS rank only lower than Reichsführer-SS. Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess started out in 1933 as Obergruppenführer.
The Kent police internal investigation also found that Kammerzell had been overheard joking about the Holocaust. To be exact: he said his grandfather died after getting drunk and falling out of a Nazi guard tower. Not that funny, but maybe you had to be there. In any event, he boasted about growing a Hitler mustache one time.
In his defense, Kammerzell told an investigating attorney for the city that the idea behind hanging up the SS insignia was an homage to the TV series “Man in the High Castle,” which is based on a Philip K. Dick 1962 novel about an America under Nazi rule. One of the main villains in the series is the American Nazi Obergruppenführer John Smith.
The investigating attorney also discovered a photograph taken during the Octoberfest of 2019, showing Kammerzell in lederhosen, standing behind Mayor Dana Ralph and giving a “heil Hitler” salute. So, the man is committed.
Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla concluded in a letter to his assistant: “I do not believe the investigation produced sufficient evidence that you were untruthful in asserting that you were not aware that the insignia you posted on your door was not used by non-Nazi German military forces.” And, as we mentioned above, gave him two weeks without pay and sensitivity training.
Back on January 3, Assistant Chief Kammerzell was initially disciplined by being forced to take two weeks off without pay and undergo sensitivity training. But then came an outraged backlash by members of the Jewish community of Kent, who demanded that Mayor Dana Ralph fire Kammerzell.
Maxima Patashnik, director of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council and government affairs, announced: “This just seems totally unbelievable. … This is incredibly troubling.”
“These kinds of actions and insensitivity form the basis of what leads to genocide,” she added. “The Jewish community relies on law enforcement for safety. I have to ask if people of Jewish descent wouldn’t feel uncomfortable knowing this.”
So, on January 4, the mayor demanded Kammerzell’s resignation at a City Council meeting where she was being sworn in for a new term as mayor. Before the announcement, she met privately with a delegation from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the Jewish Community Relations Council, who said they were “horrified” by Kammerzell’s actions and wanted the SS wannabe’s head.
Mayor Ralph then called for Kammerzell’s resignation, even though she said at the time that the double-punishment would probably “come at a high cost.” And it did. As the Seattle Times later reported, the second disciplinary action resulted in a standoff between Kammerzell’s and the city attorneys, and the city was staring at multi-million-dollar litigation it could not win.
They got away easy. Kammerzell was going to sue for $3.1 million.