Seattle police officer put on leave after newspaper reports alleged off-duty racist comments

Sep 22, 2023, 4:34 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle police officer has been placed on administrative leave after Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Friday he listened to an audio recording including comments by the officer that led to the filing of a bias/hate complaint.

“As I have said from the beginning of my tenure as Chief of Police, racist comments and behavior by department employees will not be tolerated,” Diaz’s statement said.

The statement comes after a story Friday in the The Stranger newspaper with audio of Seattle Police Officer Burton Hill calling his Asian American neighbor racist and sexists slurs during an argument in their suburban Seattle condominium complex in 2022. Hill was off duty at the time.

A Chinese social services organization filed the complaint recently with the city’s Office of Police Accountability, The Stranger reported.

The Associated Press has sent an email to Hill seeking comment.

Diaz also said Friday he has directed staff to review Hill’s arrest and investigation history.

Earlier this week, Seattle’s Community Police Commission recommended that a different officer under investigation for making callous remarks about the death of a woman from India be put on unpaid leave.

The commission wrote a letter to Diaz calling for the suspension of Officer Daniel Auderer, the vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild.

Auderer is under investigation for comments he made that were captured by Auderer’s body camera during an investigation into the death of 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula.

Kandula was struck and killed in a crosswalk Jan. 23 by Officer Kevin Dave’s speeding SUV. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is conducting a criminal review of the crash.

In a recording of a phone call released by the police department last week, Auderer laughs while talking to the police union president, suggests Kandula’s life had “limited value” and said the city should just write a check for $11,000. Auderer has not responded to requests for comment.

The Seattle Police Officers Guild has said it understands the outrage caused by the “highly insensitive comments.” The union also said there is “much more detail and nuance that has not been made public yet.”

The Community Police Commission’s Wednesday letter also asked that Diaz “immediately engage in a workgroup” to “address repeated concerns with the culture of policing and police practices” at the department.

A Seattle Police Department spokesperson on Wednesday declined to comment on the commission’s letter.

“I and the entire police department deeply apologize to the person who was subjected to these offensive remarks, as well as to the community,” Diaz said in the Friday statement about Hill’s alleged comments. “We clearly have more work to do to build trust between the department and the people we serve.”

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Seattle police officer put on leave after newspaper reports alleged off-duty racist comments