Seattle Police Officer Under Investigation for Insensitive Remarks Relating to Fatal Incident Reassigned

SEATTLE - Following an ongoing investigation into the conduct of a Seattle police officer and union leader regarding insensitive comments made after a fatal accident involving a police SUV, authorities have confirmed that the officer, Daniel Auderer, has been reassigned from patrol duty.

The Seattle Police Department announced on Thursday that Officer Daniel Auderer "has been administratively reassigned to a non-operational position," as reported by The Seattle Times. This decision came in the wake of a demand from a police watchdog group for Auderer to be suspended without pay. The precise timeline of Auderer's removal from traffic duty and his reassignment remains unspecified.

The investigation into Auderer was triggered by the release of a recording from his body camera, capturing a conversation with union President Mike Solan in the aftermath of a tragic incident. The incident involved another officer, Kevin Dave, who struck and fatally injured 23-year-old student Jaahnavi Kandula while driving a police SUV at an excessive speed of 74 mph in a 25 mph zone on January 23.

According to a detective's report, Officer Dave initiated braking less than a second before colliding with Kandula, who was crossing the street. The report revealed that Dave was driving at 63 mph when the collision occurred, providing insufficient time for both Kandula and Dave to detect and avoid the impending hazard. Despite activating emergency lights and sounding the siren at various intersections, Kandula was tragically thrown 138 feet.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is conducting a criminal review of the incident.

Notably, Auderer left his body camera operational during his phone call with Solan after departing from the crash scene, where his assignment was to determine whether Officer Dave was impaired.

In the released recording, only Auderer can be heard speaking. He downplayed the seriousness of the crash, inaccurately stating that Dave was driving at 50 mph during the incident. Auderer is heard laughing during the conversation and refers to Kandula as a "regular person." He even suggested that Kandula's life had "limited value" and recommended the city issue a check for $11,000.

The Seattle Office of Police Accountability initiated an investigation on August 2 after an employee reviewing the body camera footage for the crash investigation reported it to a police department attorney.

Auderer's remarks have sparked condemnation locally and globally, with Police Chief Adrian Diaz meeting with representatives from the Indian and Asian communities to address the situation.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild has released a statement asserting that the recorded conversation has been taken out of context, claiming that Auderer and Solan were mocking the way the city's attorneys might attempt to minimize liability for Kandula's death.

Earlier this month, conservative talk radio host Jason Rantz of KTTH-AM reported that he had obtained a written statement from Auderer submitted to the city's Office of Police Accountability. In the statement, Auderer contended that Solan had expressed sorrow over the tragedy and that his own comments were intended to mimic how the city's lawyers might handle the situation.

"I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers," Auderer wrote, according to KTTH. "I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy."

While Auderer acknowledged in the statement that listening to his side of the conversation alone might lead someone to believe he was insensitive to loss of life, he stressed that his comment was not made with malice but rather as a commentary on the legal process surrounding such incidents.

Members of both the Community Police Commission and the African American Advisory Council expressed concern over Auderer's laughter in the context of Kandula's death, per KIRO-TV. They believe this behavior reflects negatively on the entire department and raises questions about the department's culture and its valuation of lives.

Victoria Beach, chair of the African-American Community Advisory Council for the Seattle Police Department, expressed her disappointment, saying, "This just taints it. Not only for Seattle officers but for every officer in our country. That shows you their culture. That some of us are valued and some aren't. Some lives are valued and some aren't, and it doesn't look good."