SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department says an officer and police union official under investigation over a body camera recording of him laughing and joking after a young woman was fatally struck by another officer has been taken off the streets.
After a week of refusing to comment on the status of Officer Daniel Auderer, the department Thursday confirmed by email that he “has been administratively reassigned to a non-operational position.”
Auderer, a member of the SPD’s traffic squad and vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, came under investigation earlier this month over a clip from his body camera that depicts him laughing and joking during a phone call after another officer, Kevin Dave, struck and killed a 23-year-old student, Jaahnavi Kandula, as she attempted to cross Dexter Avenue North at Thomas Street the night of Jan. 23.
Dave, who was responding to a report of an overdose, was driving 74 mph in a 25-mph zone just before he struck Kandula, according to the investigation. She was thrown more than 100 feet. Dave’s emergency flashers were on, and reports say he had activated his siren just seconds before impact.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case, considering whether to pursue charges against Dave.
The controversy comes as the city and SPOG continue to negotiate a contract that expired more than two years ago and at a time when the focus on officer accountability has never been higher. The issue is key to the city’s efforts to finally resolve a decadelong consent decree with the Department of Justice, which sued the department in 2012 over evidence that SPD officers routinely resorted to using excessive force.
The issue of officer accountability — and opposition to reforms by the guild — has prolonged federal oversight and remains a key focus of the federal judge overseeing the agreement.
Auderer had responded from home as a drug recognition expert the night of Kandula’s death to determine if Dave was impaired. Afterward, he called SPOG president Mike Solan, apparently unaware his body camera was still recording.
In that two-minute conversation — only Auderer’s side can be heard — he jokes and dismisses any implication Dave might have been at fault or that a criminal investigation was necessary.
Officials have since questioned whether Auderer, as an elected union official, should be involved in an investigation of a rank-and-file officer facing possible discipline or criminal charges.
During the conversation, he laughed several times, saying at one point, “Yeah, just write a check.”
“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer said, misstating the victim’s age. “She had limited value.” He ultimately realized his body camera was running and turned it off.
Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability launched an investigation Aug. 2 after an SPD employee, going through the body camera video for the investigation, was upset by the conversation and reported it to an SPD lawyer.
Auderer’s comments have prompted international condemnation, and Chief Adrian Diaz has said he’s met with representatives of the Indian and Asian communities about the hurt the incident has caused. The Community Police Commission, one of a trio of SPD oversight groups, called for Auderer to be suspended without pay.
SPOG issued a statement saying the conversation has been taken out of context and that Auderer and Solan were mocking attorneys who will try to put a price tag on the young woman’s life.