New York, Sep 15 (IANS) Mumbai-born Kshama Sawant, a prominent Indian-origin Seattle council member, has called for an elected police accountability system after a recent bodycam video of a police officer mocking an Indian student's death by a police patrol vehicle in January sparked massive outrage.
The brief clip shows Seattle Police Officers’ Guild Vice President Daniel Auderer saying that 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula "had limited value" in a call with senior Mike Solan.
Sawant has called for an elected police accountability system after the incident.
"Working people need to demand an independent, public investigation into this outrage," she said in a post shared on X (formerly Twitter).
Sawant said that the “so-called Office of Professional Accountability has singularly failed to hold Seattle Police accountable” in the past, noting that “cops overseeing cops will never work".
"We need independently elected community oversight with full powers over the police. But to win this, working people will need to organise independently of the Democratic Party," she wrote.
Sawant said that Auderer has been the subject of 18 investigations since 2014, and is involved in lawsuits costing the city over $1.7 million, with not one of them having resulted in him being fired, let alone facing legal consequences.
"He is far from an exception in police departments nationwide -- under both Democrats & Republicans -- which use excessive force with impunity, especially against the poor, those facing mental health challenges, women, and marginalised communities," she said in her post.
Some of the charges against Auderer include, harassing, illegally stopping and roughly arresting two Mexican migrants, sexually harassing an arrestee and beating a mentally ill man to the point of permanent brain damage.
Asking the Seattle Police Department to "fix the culture", Council member Tammy J. Morales called on Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz to take immediate action against Auderer's abhorrent comments'.
“After every high-profile incident of police abuse, we’re told to wait -- wait for a six-month long investigation or a years-long review process. We’re done waiting. I’m calling on Chief Diaz to tell the Council and community, in real terms, how he plans to regain control of his department and fix the culture,” Morales said in a statement.
“As the department and Seattle Police Officer’s Guild ask for more funding for recruitment and hiring, it’s becoming clear the top deterrent to attracting high-quality officers may be the culture of the department itself,” she continued.
Morales said that as a mother of three, she is "disgusted" by the comments Auderer made in the video. “This officer should not be on the force," she told Diaz.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who chairs the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee, called the comments “careless and inhumane”.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell sent a letter to Kandula's family saying that Auderer's comments do not reflect the feelings of the city.
"I want to be clear that the comments made by one person do not reflect the feelings of our city or the communities that call it home. We recognise that Jaahnavi’s death is a loss for our whole community -- the loss of a young woman who had so much life ahead of her to do amazing things and share that joy with loved ones," he wrote.
On January 23, Seattle Police Officer Kevin Dave was driving 74 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone.
He did not have his sirens on when he hit and killed Kandula, a 23-year-old graduate student, who was walking in a crosswalk.
In the hours after, Auderer called Solan. In that call, he laughed about Jaahnavi’s death and said, "yeah, just write a check. $11,000. She was 26 anyway. She had limited value".