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Seattle Police Union claims video over “limited value” comment about 23-year-old lacked context


Sarah Grace Taylor
The Seattle Times

In a statement released Friday, Seattle’s police union says a video of its vice president joking after the death of 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula lacks context.

In the video, Daniel Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, is heard talking to union President Mike Solan after Auderer was assigned to do a standard impairment assessment on the officer who struck and killed Kandula in January at a South Lake Union crosswalk.

While Solan is not heard in the video, Auderer is clearly heard laughing afterward, calling Kandula a “regular person” and suggesting that the department “write a check.”

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

Auderer’s comments sparked international outrage this week and spurred heightened scrutiny of the department’s culture and oversight process, as well as the role of union leaders.

In their first statement since the video was made public Monday, SPOG leaders say the guild “understands the attention and outrage” spurred by Auderer’s “highly insensitive comments,” but claim the video presents his remarks out of context.

“Without context, this audio is horrifying and has no place in a civil society. It [sullies] the profession of law enforcement, the reputation of all Seattle Police officers and paints Seattle in a terrible light,” the statement shared late Friday morning says, offering condolences to Kandula’s family.

The union’s statement, which includes signatures from Solan, Auderer and union secretary Ben Hughey, says there is context missing from the video and that the release of the footage has “revictimized” Kandula’s family.

“Some viral videos of police actions shared by media, fail to explain the full story/context. This Seattle Police video is an example of that reality,” it continues. “The video captures only one side of the conversation. There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet.”

In August, the Office of Police Accountability opened an investigation into the phone call after an attorney for the Police Department reported the conversation to the OPA the same month.

The union said that “upon being made aware of the existence of this video, [Auderer] immediately took ownership of his actions and authored a statement requesting that the Director of OPA (Gino Betts) consider the course of ‘Rapid Adjudication’.”

In an attached copy of Auderer’s statement to OPA, which is dated after the OPA investigation began, Auderer says Solan initially raised concern about how attorneys would argue over “the value of human life,” prompting Auderer’s commentary, which is heard in the video.

“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 wrote in the August statement, adding that he was laughing “at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated.”

A spokesperson for the Police Department would not disclose whether Auderer was still working or had been put on leave as of Friday.

Auderer’s comments stoked a rally of more than 200 people on Thursday near the site where Kandula was killed when Officer Kevin Dave struck her on a crosswalk with his vehicle going 74 mph in January.

Activists held signs reading “jail killer cops” and “end police terror.” Throughout the week, elected officials released statements saying they were “disgusted” and ready for police reform.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, deputy majority leader of the Washington state Senate, called Auderer’s comments “revolting” in a statement Friday and said that incidents like this are “precisely why there is a lack of trust between the community and law enforcement.”

“We need partners in law enforcement, not adversaries. We need guardians, not warriors,” Dhingra wrote.

On Thursday, Northeastern University, where Kandula was pursuing a master’s degree in information systems, released a statement calling Auderer’s remarks callous and insensitive. Kandula was struck and died near Northeastern’s Seattle campus, where she was working toward supporting her mother in India, her family said.

“We also recognize that our Indian student community — across all Northeastern campuses — has been especially impacted by this tragedy and its aftermath,” wrote Kenneth W. Henderson, Northeastern’s chancellor and senior vice president of learning. “We stand in solidarity with you and have every expectation that the ongoing investigations will bring a measure of justice and accountability.”


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