A culture war is being waged between some San Jose police officers and Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell. Judge Cordell has taken issue with a T-shirt that was designed for officers in an elite tactical unit that is equipped with assault rifles.
Cordell, who called the shirt’s design “a thug logo,” features the acronym SJPD, a human skull with two assault rifles crossed in the background and the motto “Usus Ferocitas,” which in Latin can translate to several meanings.
The Mercury News translated the Latin phrase to “skill” and “courage” in its Internal Affairs column. Other definitions could be “use” and “experience” for the word “Usus,” and “savageness” and “fierceness” for “Ferocitas.” Latin, of course, is basically a dead language, and Cordell says the shirt implies a deadly message inconsistent with the department’s values and mission, even if the shirt was meant to be worn under a uniform.
“That’s a thug logo,” Cordell said. “I read how the Mercury News’ Internal Affairs article handled it. It was very cynical. They don’t get it. When you have a department that sees nothing wrong with wearing this kind of stuff—because that was the attitude, if it’s under their shirts—that’s irrelevant. It’s about the culture.”
In the last few years, the media has consistently noted drops in officer morale in reports about the San Jose Police Department. It’s a logical assumption to make after pay cuts, attempts to roll back retiree benefits and a mayor—with some council backing—aggressively politicking against sick leave payouts and above-mentioned benefits. But how the shirts boost morale is tough to understand, Cordell says.
According to the Merc, Police Chief Chris Moore asked the shirt’s creators to come up with a new design while also implementing a new rule that any items or clothing associated with SJPD of the department badge be given to his office for review.
“The chief has proposed, and I’ve never seen anything this fast before, a new rule in the duty manual,” Cordell said. “The chief ran the draft of it by me, and I read it last week. The duty manual says when you’re on duty or off duty, you’re still representing the department—same thing with judges.
“If I was an officer and I was on duty and I saw somebody walking down the street with a shirt like that, my antenna would go up. So why do they wear it? It’s just emblematic of a culture you don’t want to exist.”
Conversely, Cordell added, “you’re representing the San Jose Police Department. You’re job is to protect the public. So, if somebody sees an officer in public wearing that, what are they supposed to think?”
SJPD did not respond to a request for comment.
Kim’s Embroidery often makes mass-produced shirts for SJPD, and the business planned to make the shirt in question with coordination from SJPD’s Rommel Macatangay. The shirts would have retailed in the range of $13 to $20, according to the internal flyer. Cordell now wants to know what other shirts might be out there.
“If you want the message to be we are ass-kickers, we are ferocious, we take no prisoners, OK,” she said. “If that’s the message you want, alrighty then. It’ll be interesting to see what shirt they come up with next.”