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In the wake of a tragic accident involving Indian student Jaahnavi Kandula, who lost her life when struck by a Seattle police officer's vehicle earlier this year, Officer Daniel Auderer has come under scrutiny for his insensitive comments in the aftermath of the incident. Auderer's comments have been misconstrued, according to the Seattle Police Officers' Guild. As a result of the incident, public outrage and accountability calls have been raised about police conduct.
September 18, 2023: Auderer was caught on camera making the comments in the moments following the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old student at Northeastern University. Kandula was struck by a police car driven by Officer Kevin Dave while crossing the street in Seattle on January 23, 2023. Dave was driving at a speed of more than 119 kmh on the way to a report of a drug overdose call.
The video was released on Monday by the Seattle Police Department, and it quickly went viral. Auderer has since been placed on administrative leave, and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild has defended his actions, saying that his comments were taken out of context.
The context of the tragic accident
Jaahnavi Kandula, a student at Washington’s Northeastern University, tragically lost her life on January 23, 2023, after being struck by Officer Kevin Dave’s police vehicle while crossing the street. Dave was driving at a high speed, responding to a drug overdose call, at the time of the accident.
The insensitive comments
Bodycam footage released by the Seattle Police Department showed Officer Daniel Auderer making callous comments about the incident. In the video, Auderer laughed about the deadly crash and dismissed the need for a criminal investigation. He was heard saying, “Yeah, just write a cheque. USD 11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value.”
The Guild’s defense
The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild issued a statement defending Auderer, asserting that the viral video captured only one side of the conversation and lacked important context. They emphasized that Auderer’s comments were intended as a mockery of lawyers and their tactics during legal proceedings related to such incidents.
In a letter to the Office of Police Accountability, Auderer said that he was joking about the “callousness of the legal system” and that he did not mean to be insensitive to the family of the victim. “I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I have watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy,” he wrote.
“He clarified that his comments were meant to satirize the legal system’s approach to such cases. Auderer admitted that, without context, his remarks could be seen as horrifying and crude.
Public outrage and calls for accountability
The release of the bodycam footage led to public outrage, with thousands signing an online petition demanding Auderer’s termination. The petition called for stricter accountability measures within law enforcement agencies and comprehensive training on empathy and cultural sensitivity.
Auderer’s comments have sparked outrage in the Indian community and beyond. Many people have called for him to be fired, and an online petition demanding his termination has garnered thousands of signatures.
Seattle Council member Kshama Sawant has also called for an independent investigation into the incident.
“Auderer, who is the Vice President of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG), a deeply reactionary organization which has fought against every measure of police accountability, should be immediately fired,” she said.
The incident has highlighted the ongoing tensions between police and the Indian community in the United States. It has also raised questions about the accountability of police officers. It remains to be seen what disciplinary action will be taken against Auderer. However, the incident is a reminder of the importance of police reform and the need to hold police officers accountable for their actions.