SEATTLE – A Seattle police officer and union leader under investigation for laughing and making callous remarks about the death of a woman from India who was struck by a police SUV has been taken off patrol duty, police said.
The Seattle Police Department confirmed Thursday that traffic Officer Daniel Auderer “has been administratively reassigned to a non-operational position," The Seattle Times reported. The reassignment information comes a week after one police watchdog group called for Auderer to be suspended without pay. It wasn't immediately clear when Auderer was taken off traffic duty and reassigned.
Auderer, who is vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, has been under investigation since a recording from his body camera was released that depicts him laughing and joking during a phone call with union President Mike Solan. The call happened in the hours after another officer, Kevin Dave, in his police SUV struck and killed 23-year-old student Jaahnavi Kandula as she was crossing a street on Jan. 23.
Dave had been driving 74 mph (119 kph) in a 25 mph (40 kph) zone on he headed to a drug overdose call. He started braking less than a second before hitting Kandula, according to a detective's report. The report said Dave was driving 63 mph (101 kph) when he hit the woman and that his speed didn’t allow Kandula or Dave sufficient time to “detect, address and avoid a hazard that presented itself.”
The SUV’s emergency lights had been activated, and Dave had “chirped” his siren at other intersections and used it immediately before the collision, the report said, adding Kandula was thrown 138 feet (42 meters).
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the crash.
Auderer left his body camera on during his call to Solan after leaving the crash scene, where he had been called to determine whether Dave was impaired.
In the recording released by the police department only Auderer can be heard speaking. He underplays the crash, inaccurately saying Dave was driving 50 mph at the time. Then he can be heard laughing and calling Kandula a “regular person.” He also suggests Kandula’s life had “limited value” and the city should just write a check for $11,000.
Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability began an investigation Aug. 2 after a police department employee who was reviewing the body camera video for the crash investigation reported it to a police department lawyer.
Auderer’s comments have been condemned locally and internationally. Police Chief Adrian Diaz has said he’s met with representatives of the Indian and Asian communities about it.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild in a statement has said the recorded conversation has been taken out of context and that the two men were mocking how the city's lawyers might try to minimize liability for Kandula's death.