SEATTLE (AP) — A city watchdog agency is investigating after a body-worn camera captured a Seattle Police Department union leader joking with another following a woman’s death who was struck and killed by a police car while crossing a street.
Daniel Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, responded to the scene of the Jan. 23 crash where another officer, Kevin Dave, struck and killed Jaahnavi Kandula, 23, in a crossing. pedestrians.
Dave was driving 78 mph en route to an overdose call, and Auderer, a drug recognition expert, was tasked with assessing whether Dave was impaired, the Seattle Times reported.
Afterward, Auderer left his body-worn camera on while he called guild president Mike Solan to report what had happened. In a recording released Monday by police, Auderer laughs and suggests that Kandula’s life had “limited value” and that the city should “just write a check.”
“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 years old anyway,” Auderer said, inaccurately stating Kandula’s age. “It had limited value.”
The recording did not capture Solan’s remarks.
Neither Auderer nor Solan responded to emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.
However, a conservative radio host on KTTH-AM, Jason Rantz, reported that he had obtained a written statement provided by Auderer to the city’s Office of Police Accountability.
In it, Auderer said Solan lamented the death and that his own comments were intended to mimic the way city lawyers might try to minimize their responsibility.
“I meant to make this comment as a mockery of the lawyers,” Auderer wrote, according to KTTH. “I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I saw these incidents play out as two parties negotiating over a tragedy. »
The station reported that Auderer acknowledged in the statement that anyone listening to his side of the conversation alone “would rightly believe that I was insensitive to the loss of life.” The comment “was not made with malice or with a hard heart,” he said, but “quite the opposite.”
The case before the Office of Police Accountability has been designated as classified. The Associated Press could not immediately verify the details of Auderer’s statement.
The station said Auderer showed up to the accounting office after realizing his comments had been recorded because he realized publicizing them could damage community trust in the Seattle Police Department.
In a written statement on its online blotter, the department said the video “was identified in the ordinary course of business by a department employee who, concerned about the nature of the statements heard on this video, expressed his concerns. concerns appropriately through its chain of command. .” Chief Adrian Diaz’s office referred the matter to the Office of Accountability, the release said.
It was not immediately clear whether Auderer and the chief’s office reported the matter to the bureau, or when Auderer might have done so. Gino Betts Jr., director of the Office of Police Accountability, told the Seattle Times that the investigation began after a police department attorney sent an email to the office in early August.
Kandula was working toward earning a master’s degree in information systems from Northeastern University’s Seattle campus in December. After her death, her uncle, Ashok Mandula, of Houston, arranged to send her body to her mother in India.
“The family has nothing to say,” he told the Seattle Times. “Except I wonder if the daughters or granddaughters of these men are valuable. A life is a life.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the crash.
The controversy over Auderer’s remarks comes as a federal judge this month ended most federal control over the police department under a 2012 consent decree that sought to address concerns regarding use of force, community trust and other issues.
Another Seattle police watchdog organization, the Community Police Commission, called the audio “heartbreaking and incredibly insensitive.”
“Seattle residents deserve better from a police department charged with fostering community trust and ensuring public safety,” commission members said in a joint statement.