Seattle officer should be put on leave for callous remarks about Indian woman’s death, watchdog says
SEATTLE (AP) - Seattle’s Community Police Commission on Wednesday recommended that the city’s police chief suspend without pay an officer under investigation for making callous remarks about the death of a woman from India who was struck by a police SUV in a crosswalk.
The 21-member commission and its three appointed co-chairs also requested that Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz “immediately engage in a workgroup” with the commission, the Office of Police Accountability and the Office of Inspector General to “address repeated concerns with the culture of policing and police practices” in his department, The Seattle Times reported.
The letter calls on Diaz to suspend Officer Daniel Auderer, the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.
Auderer has been under investigation since earlier this month when police officials listened to audio from Auderer’s body camera during an investigation into the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student who was struck and killed in a crosswalk by Officer Kevin Dave’s SUV on Jan. 23.
Dave had been driving 74 mph (119 kph) in a 25 mph (40 kph) zone on the way to an overdose call. He started braking less than a second before hitting Kandula, according to a report by a detective from the police department’s traffic collision investigation team. The report determined that Dave was going 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 inadvertently left his body-worn camera on as he called union President Mike Solan after he left the crash scene, where he had been called to determine whether Dave was impaired.
In a recording released by the police department last week, Auderer laughs, calling Kandula a “regular person” and suggests Kandula’s life had “limited value” and the city should just write a check for $11,000.
The commissioner’s letter additionally questions the “apparent conflict of interest” in having Auderer, a guild official, investigating a rank-and-file officer the guild is sworn to protect and represent. Members of the Seattle City Council this week also questioned why union leadership would be called to make a determination in a fatal incident that could yield significant disciplinary action, The Seattle Times reported on Monday.
A police department spokesperson declined to comment to The Associated Press on Wednesday about the recommendation that Diaz suspend Auderer. An email to the police union seeking comment from Auderer or the union wasn’t immediately returned on Wednesday.
According to the letter, Auderer has been the subject of 29 complaints to the Office of Police Accountability since 2014, “including allegations of policy violations related to bias-free policing, unprofessional conduct and use of force.” Three of the complaints involved sustained findings, according to the Community Police Commission.
Demonstrators in Seattle last Thursday demanded the resignation of Auderer and Dave.
The Seattle Police Officers Guild said in a statement Friday that it understands the outrage caused by the “highly insensitive comments.” But the union noted that the bodycam footage captures only Auderer’s side of the conversation: “There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet.”
Diplomats from India are also seeking an investigation and action against the officers. The U.S. State Department in a statement Friday called the situation disturbing.
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