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Seattle officer who said woman run over by police 'had limited value' should be put on leave, watchdog says

The group called Officer Daniel Auderer’s comments “horrifying” and said they raise questions about his ability to interact with the community.
Protesters march through downtown Seattle on Thursday  after body camera footage was released following the death in January of Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old woman hit and killed by officer Kevin Dave in a police cruiser.
Protesters march through downtown Seattle after body camera video was released after the death of Jaahnavi Kandula in January.Lindsey Wasson / AP

Seattle’s Community Police Commission has recommended that the city’s police chief place on unpaid leave the officer under investigation for making callous remarks about the death of a 23-year-old woman after she was struck by another officer’s cruiser in a crosswalk.

The commission also requested that Chief Adrian Diaz “engage in a workgroup” consisting of the commission, the Office of Police Accountability and others “to address repeated concerns with the culture of policing and police practices” within the department.

The independent 15-member commission, which was established under a federal consent decree, is charged with providing “community-based oversight” of the Seattle Police Department within the police accountability system.

The group called Officer Daniel Auderer’s comments “horrifying” in a letter to Diaz and said it raises questions about his ability to interact with the community.

Auderer is under investigation by the Office of Police Accountability, which investigates allegations of police misconduct and makes disciplinary recommendations to the police chief. On Aug. 2, the agency received a complaint from an employee with the Seattle Police Department. That employee was concerned about comments Auderer made in a video from his body camera about Jaahnavi Kandula, a graduate student at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus, who was struck and killed by Officer Kevin Dave’s speeding police vehicle on Jan. 23.

The police department released the video on Sept. 11, prompting several protests. Auderer, the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, inadvertently left his camera on when he described Kandula as “a regular person,” suggested the department “write a check” and laughed on a call with guild president Mike Solan.

Jaahnavi Kandula.
Jaahnavi Kandula.GoFundMe

“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said, incorrectly stating Kandula’s age. “She had limited value.”

Solan’s voice cannot be heard in the video.

Dave had been driving 74 mph in a 25 mph zone on the way to a “priority one call.” Auderer was assigned to evaluate whether Dave was impaired, according to a police investigation report. His comments have been widely condemned, including by people in India, where Kandula was born.

Last week, the guild said Auderer’s comments had been taken out of context and released a letter that Auderer had sent to the director of the Office of Police Accountability in August — more than six months after Kandula was killed — after he learned about the video’s existence.

“I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers — I was imitating what a lawyer tasked with negotiating the case would be saying and being sarcastic to express that they shouldn’t be coming up with crazy arguments to minimize the payment,” Auderer said in the letter.

A police spokesperson declined to comment Thursday, referring NBC News to an earlier statement about the body camera video. The guild did not immediately return requests for comment.

In its letter to the police chief, the commission said that although the body camera did not capture Solan’s comments during the call, “there is simply no context that could possibly make these comments acceptable.”

“The CPC firmly believes that Detective Auderer’s statements on his call with SPOG President Mike Solan that the deceased pedestrian — or anyone’s life — had limited value, and minimizing the investigation into the collision, are horrifying and raise serious concerns about his attitude toward and interactions with members of the community, and his ability to investigate cases equitably, accurately, and without bias and keep the City’s residents safe,” the commission said.

According to the letter, Auderer has been the subject of 29 complaints to the Office of Police Accountability since 2014, “including alleged violations of policy related to bias free policing, unprofessional conduct, and use of force.”

Three of the complaints resulted in sustained findings, the commission said.

The commission letter also raised concerns about “an apparent conflict of interest” in having Auderer, a leader in the guild that represents officers, having participated in the investigation of a fellow officer.