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Cop Recorded Joking About Pedestrian Death

Of all the helping professions, police work seems the most suited to a dark, sardonic disposition often referred to as gallows humor. It’s the byproduct of being subject to crime, degradation, and violence on a day-to-day basis. Still, the case of Seattle police officer Daniel Auderer should help officers reflect on the consequences of their words, especially when they’re caught on camera.

Auderer’s bodycam footage recorded him joking with another officer while discussing the death of a pedestrian. SPD officer Kevin Dave had been driving over 70 miles per hour in his police vehicle while responding to an overdose call when his car struck and killed 26-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula in a crosswalk. Auderer had been summoned to evaluate whether Dave had been impaired at the time of the accident. Auderer was recorded saying that the city should “just write a check,” and implied that eleven thousand dollars would suffice, because, “she was 26, anyway … she had limited value.”

Auderer later wrote in a statement to the city’s Office of Police Accountability, "I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers. I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated and the ridiculousness of how I watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy."

Auderer admitted that anyone listening to his side of the conversation alone "would rightfully believe I was being insensitive to the loss of human life." The comment was "not made with malice or a hard heart," he said, but "quite the opposite." Still, police watchdog groups were not satisfied with the explanation, and several demanded Auderer be suspended without pay.

At the time of her death, Kandula was a student enrolled in the information systems program at Northeastern University’s Seattle campus. After her death, her uncle Ashok Mandula arranged to send her body to her mother in India. Mandula said, "The family has nothing to say. Except I wonder if these men's daughters or granddaughters have value. A life is a life."

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