Daniel Auderer, a Seattle police officer and vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, has been relieved of his patrol duties after being investigated for making offensive comments and laughing in response to the death of an Indian woman who was hit by a police SUV. The Seattle Times stated that the Seattle Police Department has confirmed his administrative reassignment to a non-operational position. This development follows a call from a police watchdog group for Auderer to be suspended without pay, although the exact date of his reassignment was not disclosed.
The investigation into Auderer was initiated after a recording from his body camera was released, revealing a phone call between him and union President Mike Solan. The call took place shortly after another officer, Kevin Dave, struck and killed 23-year-old student Jaahnavi Kandula with his police SUV while she was crossing a street on January 23. Dave was driving at an excessive speed of 74 mph (119 kph) in a 25 mph (40 kph) zone, responding to a drug overdose call. He began braking less than a second before hitting Kandula, according to a detective’s report. The report also stated that Dave’s high speed left insufficient time for both Kandula and Dave to react to the hazard.
Auderer’s body camera recorded him downplaying the crash, inaccurately stating that Dave was driving at 50 mph at the time. He was heard laughing and referring to Kandula as a “regular person,” suggesting her life had “limited value” and recommending the city simply write a check for $11,000.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the incident.
Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability initiated an investigation after a police department employee, reviewing the body camera footage for the crash investigation, reported it to a police department attorney.
Auderer’s remarks have faced widespread condemnation, both locally and internationally. Police Chief Adrian Diaz has met with representatives of the Indian and Asian communities to address the issue. In response, the Seattle Police Officers Guild released a statement claiming that the recorded conversation was taken out of context and that the two individuals were discussing potential legal strategies concerning liability for Kandula’s death.