Curb Appeal

San Jose Police Department’s new plan to track “curb sitting,” which some residents say unfairly targets minorities, will be the first of its kind in the nation, says Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell.

“No police department in the United States is doing this,” she says of the policy that rolls out in July. “But often police will stop someone and it ends up as nothing. If there are arrests, police make a report. But if someone’s stopped and let go, there’s no report. That’s what we’re going to change.”

Cordell has long urged the department to document curb-sitting incidents to note the reason someone was stopped, their ethnicity, name, age and other data to determine whether certain groups are targeted.

“There’s a perception that people are singled out,” says Cordell, a retired judge. “But we don’t have the data to find out what’s going on out there. Because anecdotally, I hear, especially from people of color, that they’re treated a certain way.”

Former Police Chief Chris Moore implemented the policy back in January before he retired. But Acting Chief Esquivel suspended it until he could iron out some kinks in the program, like making sure the software was in place to take those reports.

“We want to find out what they make people do, why they stop them,” Cordell explains. “There’s got to be a reason. They have to write why. If they say, ‘because I felt threatened,’ they have to explain.”

There was some pushback from the ranks, Cordell says. People told Esquivel the extra work would be cumbersome. Some officers called Cordell’s advisory back in January the “don’t get out of your car memo.” If cops, already frustrated by understaffing and higher workloads, felt they had to gather all the data, there was an attitude that they might as well avoid contacting people if they thought it could elevate into a detention.

“Some people said, ‘well, we might as well not get out of the car,’” Cordell says. “But in my mind, this is police work … this is something they should be doing anyway. I’m trying to show them that this also protects them.”

If someone complains that an officer treated them unfairly, say months after an incident, the police could defend their actions by citing the report filed, Cordell says. Otherwise, with no proof, an officer could end up with a “non-sustained” finding in their personnel records, an indicator that there’s no way to tell who’s right.

“It’s significant to communities of color … feel like they’re being targeted,” she says. “We don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s a perception. So doing this is a way of building better relationship and trust … we will document the things that we do.”

Meanwhile, citizen-filed detention allegations have been declining. Maybe part of it is because a smaller staff after years of layoffs has led to a decline in the overall number of pedestrian and traffic stops, Esquivel’s memo notes, from 436,855 in 2008 to 309,168 in 2012. Of the 3,625 citizen complaints filed in 2012, only two included comments about curb-sitting.

As San Jose readies to implement the new approach, others have taken notice. A sociologist called to testify in a lawsuit against New York City’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactics has reached out to Cordell, asking to talk about the curb-sitting data-tracking.

Cordell says she believes other departments around the country will watch San Jose as it starts data-tracking curb-sitting. A lot of agencies have avoided it because their officers see it as a burden, she says.

“I think that’s probably an attitude that’s in a lot of departments around the country,” she says.

It won’t matter soon enough, though, if the department opts to outfit officers with surveillance cameras, as Cordell has advised.

“Then you won’t have to even take notes,” she says. “It’s all on camera.”

Police Auditor’s Memorandum on Curb Sitting

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Maybe there is a REASON no other department is doing this.  Its stupid.  How often is an officer going to stop a white suspect in east side San Jose?  And if they did, and curb sat them, what would that say about the event?  That you “curb sat” the only white guy on the east side?  There go your statistics….100% of the white suspects in east san jose are “curb sat”.  Hmmmmmm……..

  2. “It won’t matter soon enough, though, if the department opts to outfit officers with surveillance cameras, as Cordell has advised.”

    “Then you won’t have to even take notes,” she says. “It’s all on camera.”

    I guess you have to be the IPA to get something done in San Jose. Former POA President Bobby Lopez tried to get these cameras long before Judge Cordell came to be our IPA, for exactly the same reasons.

    The City said they cost too much money, and Raj, Moore, and Konda screamed they were an invasion of people’s personal privacy. I sure wish people would make up their minds, one way or the other.

    I support these cameras because they not only make it easier for the Officer to document the truth, it cuts down on court costs and these ridiculous law suites filed by criminals and their families.

  3. Jennifer,

    Can you please cite were you got the information to back up your statement, “Of the 3,625 citizen complaints filed in 2012”?? My understanding is there were far fewer complaints than this, something around 300-400 total for the entire year of 2012.

    • Jennifer,

      I can only assume by your lack of response you could not find a source to back up your number. Here is a link to the IPA’s “report”, which shows 300-400 is the correct number of “citizen complaints”.

      On a side note, it is mind boggling the millions of dollars lavished on the IPA’s office for the 1/10th of 1% of all police calls for service that end in a complaint, and that the IPA got a 10% raise, while SJPD officers are going out dangerously shorthanded everyday, and are amongst the lowest paid police department in the Bay Area (thus why hundreds of officers have left).

  4. I agree with Miss Cordell. We should give them cameras. I’m glad to hear she is in support of the idea. I sincerely hope she maintains this position when the department deploys UAV’s aka unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor all her clients. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander right?
    Give them all cameras. I hope to see Ms Cordell championing the cause since she obviously supports transparency. I, for one, look forward to the day that everyone can see how these “targeted” people behave when they’re unaware they’re being watched. Looking forward to see her work so hard for these cameras. No notes required.

  5. Again you have a person Cordell who knows nothing about police work.  Trying to fix things that are not broken to justify there elevated salaries.

  6. Two complaints about Cordell’s curb sitting in a city of a million. That certainly justifies a new and time consuming procedure. What this actually is is another effort by Cordell to justify her unnecessary job. The department may be alarmingly understaffed and crime may be going through the roof, but at least we’ll have more data about the all important curb sitting issue. This city has interesting priorities.

    In case you’re wondering, having people sit on the curb is a practice done in the interest of officer safety. If someone is sitting, they first have to get to their feet before they can run or fight, which gives the officer a little more time to react.

  7. How convenient for someone who lives in the quaint tree-lined streets of downtown Palo Alto to “disagree” with a completely common sense policy of San Jose PD.
    I’d suggest Ms. Cordell move closer to her workplace and see in person what goes on in SJ on a daily basis – Story or McKee Rd for starters or Alum Rock perhaps?
    Lead by example not by meaningless statements about what or how things should be done in the part of the county you really, seriously and completely don’t give a f**k about.

  8. WE KNOW:
    Crime is up.
    Moral at SJPD is at an all time low.
    IPA Cordell excepted a 10% raise while every other employee within San Jose took a10% cut.

    SJPD self initiation as declined by 29%. (since 2008)
    SJPD arrested 49% less criminals since 2008
    .0000064% of the people contacted complained about sitting on the curb.

    I can’t believe we are paying this person $150k-$170K (not sure) for this.  What I find even more baffling is that the Acting Chief Larry Esquivel is actually entertaining this.  As a citizen of San Jose, I want crime to go down.  I can careless if two people complain about sitting on a curb.  I want my police department to be proactive and if that means ignoring all of the IPA’s so called recommendations…well so be it.  Ms. Cordell is a deterrent to returning safety to this city.

    If you feel the same, Acting Chief Esquivel can be reached at the following link:

  9. What a bunch of crap to justify your over paid position.

    “If someone complains that an officer treated them unfairly, say months after an incident, the police could defend their actions by citing the report filed, Cordell says. Otherwise, with no proof, an officer could end up with a “non-sustained” finding in their personnel records, an indicator that there’s no way to tell who’s right.”

    Well if someone wants to file a complaint as you encourage “say months later”, then they really have nothing to complain about.  If I felt I was mistreated by the police I would be at the IA Department the same or very next day.

    Once again trying to justify your over paid job!  I would rather take a “an officer could end up with a “non-sustained” finding in their personnel records that nobody even cares about. It has no effect on their career.  Non Sustained = there is no proof the officer ever did anything wrong.  An officer could be 100% in the right but if some idiot wants to file a complaint it would still result in a non sustained finding.  You could care less if an officer stops multipe suspected gang members and have them sit for officer safety reasons and yet you call this profiling. PLEASE!

    Go back to putting flyers in water bills and encourage people to file complaints against outstanding police officers who are being over worked thanks to Chuck and his clowns.

  10. This isn’t anything near “best practices”.  Why do we want to do something that no other police department is doing?

    I think when you’re short-handed, it makes sense to keep to “best practices”, and not waste time and money on experiments.

  11. Jenn,

    Time to post real interest articles.  Your starting to sound like the Mercy News.

    SJI, I suggest you review posts who get zero return comments.  Can any person post an opinion / blog?