KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Gee & Ursula: Police culture to blame for comments on woman killed by SPD car

Sep 13, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 10:49 am

police woman killed comments...

A memorial grows for the pedestrian killed when she was hit by a Seattle police cruiser in January. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

Controversial body camera footage from a Seattle Police Department (SPD) officer responding to the scene of a woman killed in a crosswalk by a police officer in January was released Monday.

In the video, the officer, Daniel Auderer, can be heard talking about an incident where 23-year-old exchange student Jaahnavi Kandula was hit and killed by another SPD officer. In the video, he makes comments including, “She’s dead,” “It’s a regular person,” and “Just write a check — $11,000. She was 26 anyway, she had limited value,” as well as laughing.

According to a post from SPD, the video of Auderer’s call “was identified in the routine course of business by a department employee,” and was escalated to Chief Adrian Diaz. It was then referred to the Office of Police Accountability (OPA) for a full investigation.

Auderer tried to get ahead of the video by self-reporting to the OPA, and in documents obtained by The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, was looking to explain the context behind the comments and acknowledging how they sounded.

“I do understand that if a citizen were to hear it that they would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of a human life,” Auderer said in the complaint. “I also understand that if I heard it (it) could diminish the trust in the Seattle Police Department and make all of our jobs more difficult. With all that being said, the comment was not made with malice or a hard heart. (It was) quite the opposite.”

On The Gee and Ursula Show, hosts Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin discussed the video and how they see it affecting the department. Ursula talked to some anonymous sources in the department, many of whom expressed how badly the comments made the SPD look.

“I will tell you, without exception, my sources are telling me that this was stupid. This was wrong. Terribly inappropriate. An embarrassment,” Ursula said. “I’m going to read a quote, ‘The damage is done. I think this is really going to hurt us with recruiting, contract negotiations, maybe even guild membership.'”

Not only is Auderer a detective with the SPD, he is also the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). The recorded conversation was with SPOG President Mike Solan, which raised some additional red flags for Ursula.

“A 23-year-old woman was killed by an officer who was driving to the scene,” Ursula said. “His first call after leaving there is to call the police union. In my opinion, and I think if I were the attorney of the family, looking at this, I would ask why Officer Auderer, who was brought in as the drug recognition officer is also now turning around and trying to make a case working with the union president.”

As far as the laugh that Auderer let out, Gee said that even his explanation of mocking attorneys doesn’t justify it.

“What was said on the other end, which had nothing to do with the attorney or what the attorney would say or assuming someone would say, he laughed right away,” Gee said. “I guess the only thing I want to say to the rest of this topic, the people that heard that know, and the people that justify this behavior, now you know why recruiting in law enforcement around the country is low.”

This contributes to an overall loss of confidence when officers make comments like this, Ursula said, undermining a lot of really important work to establish trust in the community.

Recently, a federal judge ruled that the consent decree in place to provide more oversight of SPD would partially end.

More on Seattle Police: Consent decree between SPD, City of Seattle to ‘partially’ end

“This takes away from the great work that has been done to address some of the issues of excessive use of force and biased policing, which has been the reason why they’ve been under extra scrutiny,” Ursula said. “But you get stories like this, and you’re like, ‘Seriously?'”

Gee concluded by saying this was evident of the culture of SPD and, even though there are good officers working for the public, when those high up in the union make comments like this, it undermines the whole department.

“This is the vice president of the Seattle Police Guild talking to the president,” Gee added. “So, you guys wonder why this culture is so ugly and so nasty. This is why. There’s going to be people out there that’s going to help justify, ‘Well, that’s not what he meant.’ To all the people who listened to that, you’re not stupid.”

Seattle’s civilian-led Community Police Commission (CPC) released a statement, saying the video “speaks to the concerns that the Seattle Community Police Commission has repeatedly raised about elements of Seattle Police Department culture and SPOG resistance to officer accountability measures included in the landmark 2017 Police Accountability Ordinance.”

More on the SPD: Footage captured within Seattle Police precinct shows ‘appalling’ tombstone for Black man killed

An investigation by the OPA into Auderer’s comments made in the video is currently being conducted.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gee & Ursula: Police culture to blame for comments on woman killed by SPD car