An investigation has been launched after the release of bodycam footage showing a Seattle police officer, Officer Daniel Auderer, making callous remarks and joking about a woman who was killed by a police car.
The incident involves Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus, who tragically lost her life when she was struck by a police car while crossing the street on January 23rd.
In the video, Officer Auderer can be heard making disturbing comments, suggesting that the life of the Indian student had “limited value” and that the city should simply “write a cheque” in response to her death. The officer’s demeanour is especially troubling as he can be heard laughing while making these comments.
According to a police investigation report cited by The Seattle Times, the officer driving the patrol car was travelling at a high speed of 74 mph (119 km/h), resulting in the graduate student’s body being thrown over 100 feet (30 meters).
The audio of Officer Auderer’s conversation was captured by his body camera while he was on a call with Mike Solan, the president of the guild representing Seattle Police Department officers. Unfortunately, Mr Solan’s audio is not audible in the footage.
The revelation of this disturbing conversation came to light when an employee who listened to the recording raised concerns about its nature. The matter was subsequently escalated up the chain of command, leading to an investigation by the Office of Police Accountability, the agency responsible for investigating police misconduct.
The investigation is focused on determining the context in which these insensitive remarks were made and whether they violated any department policies. Officer Auderer, who also serves as a union leader within the Seattle Police Department, defended himself in a written statement obtained by a talk radio host, Jason Rantz.
In his statement, Auderer claimed that his comments were meant to illustrate how city attorneys might seek to minimise liability in cases like this.
Reactions to the footage have been strongly negative, with the Seattle Community Police Commission describing it as “heartbreaking and shockingly insensitive.” Victoria Beach, the chair of the African American Community Advisory Council, expressed her shock and dismay over the callousness displayed in the video.
In addition to the internal investigation, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the tragic crash that resulted in Jaahnavi Kandula’s death.