San Jose police auditor to retire

San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor and former judge LaDoris Cordell, known for her criticism of “curb sitting” detainees by San Jose police, will retire as auditor as of July 3, Mayor Sam Liccardo’s office announced Wednesday.

Cordell, who has held the position that monitors the San Jose Police Department for the past five years, has informed Liccardo and the City Council of her intention to retire, Liccardo spokeswoman Michelle McGurk said.

Liccardo, who was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, in a prepared statement thanked Cordell for her service and said that as auditor she:

“… increased outreach to all of San Jose’s communities and encouraged thoughtful discussion of policy issues at a time of national debate over public safety.”

Cordell, whose annual salary is about $175,000, graduated from Stanford Law School in 1974 and became the first African American woman to serve as a judge in Northern California when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the municipal court bench in Santa Clara County in 1982, according to city officials.

She won election as judge to the Superior Court in San Jose in 1988 and remained there for 19 years. After her appointment as police auditor in 2010, Cordell sought to focus on equality and fairness in policing, specifically enforcement stops and the potential for people of color to be unfairly targeted, McGurk said.

In 2012, Cordell, in her IPA Year End report to the City Council for 2011, criticized the police practice of “curb sitting,” or making people stopped by officers to sit on the curb, claiming that blacks and Latinos may have been detained that way disproportionately compared to people of other ethnic groups.

She also complained that the process used by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit to investigate police misconduct took too long and needed to have fewer layers of review to remove potential biases from intruding on complaints against officers.

That year, Cordell said that her outreach to the community, including about 13,000 people, resulted in a 26 percent increase in complaints about police conduct received by her office. Then in 2013, Cordell reported that officers disciplined for misconduct in 2012 had fallen to the lowest level since the IPA was formed 19 years earlier, with only 11 officers disciplined compared to 42 in 2011.

Cordell asked that the department revive a practice started by former Chief Chris Moore in 2012 to document the names, ethnicities and other information about persons detained by officers but not arrested, after Acting Chief Larry Esquivel suspended the program in 2013.

In December 2013, San Jose State University president Mohammad Qayoumi appointed Cordell to lead a task force to review alleged hate crimes against a black freshman student by his four Caucasian dormitory roommates and make recommendations on how to make the campus more welcoming and tolerant.

Cordell chaired the 18-member task force, made up of students, faculty and administrators, that met six times on campus to address race relations at SJSU.

A fact-finding report for the task force, prepared by San Francisco lawyer Myron Moye, found that the university met promptly with the black student, relocated and suspended the four students and acted appropriately “in accordance with applicable policies and past practices” but that Qayoumi was not fully briefed about the incidents until six weeks after they were reported.

Cordell, in the statement issued by Liccardo’s office, stated that she was honored to serve as auditor and during her tenure she:

“… strived to increase the trust between the residents of San Jose and their police department by advocating for policy changes that increased transparency of the police force.”

She said following her retirement, she planed to write a book about her years as a judge, pursue her artwork and her talents as a vocalist and pianist with the African American Composers Initiative, a non-profit live concert program in East Palo Alto that she co-founded. McGurk said that the City Council would appoint Cordell’s replacement and that Liccardo would shortly issue a memo detailing the selection process.