Jaanhavi Kandula kin open up, condemn policeman who mocked Indian student’s death

Ritu Jha–

Family members of Jaahnavi Kandula and Councilmember Kshama Sawant have condemned the “insensible comments” made by a Seattle Police Department officer Daniel Auderer.

The police officer was caught on bodycam footage laughing and saying that the city should “just write a check” for Kandula who died after being run over by a police patrol car.

ALSO READ: Complete coverage of how Jaanhavi Kandula’s death was mocked by Seattle policeman 

Kandula, 23, a student of the Northeastern University campus in South Lake Union, was hit by a Seattle Police vehicle driven by SPD officer Kevin Dave at a pedestrian crossing on the night of January 23.

Kandula’s family members criticized Auderer for making insensitive comments.

In an email response to indica on police comments, Kandula’s family said, “Jaahnavi was a brilliant student with a promising future. Her radiant smile and bubbly personality warmed the hearts of everyone she met, and she had a natural ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Jaahnavi’s untimely and tragic accident has left her family with an unfillable void in their lives.”

“It is truly disturbing and saddening to hear the insensible comments on the bodycam video from SPD officers regarding Jaahnavi’s death. Jaahnavi is a beloved daughter and beyond any dollar value for her mother and family. We firmly believe that every human life is invaluable and not be belittled, especially during a tragic loss,” they said.

In the body camera footage released by the Seattle Police Department, Officer Daniel Auderer, who was assigned to evaluate whether Dave was impaired when the incident took place, makes controversial remarks that have been condemned by the public.

“Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway,” Auderer’s body camera captured him saying in a call to the guild’s president, Mike Solan, misstating Kandula’s age. “She had limited value.” Auderer is the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

Sawant through a press note stated, “Seattle Police officer Daniel Auderer cackled in response to the death of Jaahnavi Kandula, a young Indian exchange student after she was run over by officer Kevin Dave’s police vehicle, saying her life ‘had limited value’.”

“Auderer’s callous disregard for human life shown in this video is particularly chilling because he has a publicly funded gun with the authority to use lethal force. This video came to light only because Auderer forgot to turn off his body-worn camera, and then a journalist used a legal public records request (PDR) to force Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability (OPA) to release the footage,” she added.

Sawant has demanded that Auderer should be fired for the “insensitive remarks”. “According to Divest SPD, Auderer has been the subject of eighteen investigations by the Office of Public Accountability (OPA) in Seattle since 2014, including for racist harassment, illegal arrests, and excessive use of force.

According to Divest SPD, these cases together have cost the City of Seattle $1.7 million in lawsuits. My office is calling for an immediate, independent, public investigation into this outrage,” she said.

“Auderer, who is the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, a deeply reactionary organization that has fought against every measure of police accountability, should be immediately fired. Mike Solan, the President of SPOG, should also be fired from the Seattle Police Department. The OPA has failed to hold police accountable, and our city’s working people need an independently elected community oversight with full powers over the police, including hiring and firing, and policies and procedures.”

“In reality, Seattle’s police accountability system is not designed to hold police accountable, but to give cover for their repeated egregious actions. It is designed to exhaust working people’s outrage over police abuses, by miring every complaint in months of “investigation” certain to accomplish nothing. Despite the Seattle Police Department using deadly force more often than the combined law enforcement agencies of many countries, Seattle’s OPA has justified every fatal police shooting for over a decade, even when the victim has been unarmed.

“The so-called Office of Professional Accountability has singularly failed to hold Seattle Police accountable, relying on Seattle Police to conduct investigations into Seattle Police misconduct. The OPA is an integral part of Seattle’s establishment, working hand in hand with Democratic politicians and SPD leadership. We need independently-elected community oversight with full powers over the police. But to win this, working people will need to organize independently of the Democratic Party.”

Auderer has defended his remarks in a statement released by the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild. The Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPG), released a statement on September 15 that said that “without context”, this audio is horrifying and has no place in a civil society.

“The video captures only one side of the conversation. There is much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet,” the Guild said, releasing Auderer’s letter, which he had submitted on August 8, defending his actions and requesting an expedited employee misconduct investigation.

Auderer wrote in his letter to the Guild that while talking to Solan, he had “lamented” Kandula’s death, stating that it was unfortunate that her death would “turn into lawyers arguing ‘the value of human life”. “I responded with something like: ‘She’s 26 years old. What value is there? Who cares?’ I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers,” Auderer wrote, adding that the conversation was “inadvertently” recorded.

“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. 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,” Auderer said in his defense.

“I understand that without context the comment could be interpreted as horrifying and crude. Without context, the comment is insensitive to the family of the victim when in reality I was involved in a conversation regarding the callousness of the legal system. At the time I had no idea who the victim was. All I knew was the person’s approximate age and sex,” the Seattle cop added.

He said that the remarks were not made with malice or a hard heart, but quite the opposite. He added that he is willing to accept “any reasonable discipline our accountability partners and the Chief of Police wish to hand down”.

The Guild praised Auderer for coming forward about the footage one month before it was publicly released and added that more details surrounding the incident will be shared.

“Upon being made aware of the existence of this video, Dan (Auderer) immediately took ownership of his actions and authored a statement requesting that the Director of OPA (Office of Police Accountability) consider the course of ‘Rapid Adjudication’,” the Guild said.

Rapid Adjudication is a disciplinary process that was agreed to by the City of Seattle and the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild to expedite police employee misconduct investigations so accountability can be swiftly addressed, and reasonable discipline imposed.

This was done by Auderer more than four weeks before the release of the video, the Guild stated in its release. The footage was released by the Seattle police department “in the interest of transparency”.

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