After the ousting of Barbara Attard two years ago, a false-start with City Auditor Chris Constantin and a prolonged “interim” period with Shivaun Nurre, the city of San Jose finally has a new independent police auditor—LaDoris Cordell, a retired Santa Clara County superior court judge and former Palo Alto city councilmember.
Cordell spent 19 years on the bench as the first black woman judge in the Northern California and was the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at Stanford Law. She was the focus of a PBS documentary called “Color of Justice” about her detainment in South Africa after that county’s first Human Rights conference in 1988. She’s got a litter of awards to her name, and created programs such as the African American Donor Task Force and the Supervised Visitation Project, which places senior citizens in the room during visitations between abusive parents and children.
In a YouTube video of a Not in Our Town event, Cordell said, “Being heroic means standing up for what is right. It means speaking out when those around you are silent. Being heroic means putting a halt to behavior you know is hateful.” Those comments now take on new meaning as she assumes the IPA title in a community suspicious of its police force’s color blindness.
San Jose Police Officers’ Association President George Beattie would not comment on the appointment but wrote in a blog post on ProtectSanJose.com that “the SJPOA was barely included in the most recent selection process, even though we are one of the main stakeholders on this issue.”
UPDATE: Beattie responds: “I have serious concerns about Ms. Cordell’s ability to be independent and objective. While she has a right to be associated with community groups that have historically been critical and antagonistic to our officers, this should raise questions about her ability to be objective, just as Chris Constantin was considered biased because of his relationships. I consider this a double standard.”
Raj Jayadev, the coordinator of De-Bug, a grassroots community organization that is often critical of police conduct, says he does not know much about Cordell, but is feeling ambivalent about her appointment despite her credentials. “We could have Obama as the next IPA, but that doesn’t mean anything if they’re still cut at the knees,” he says. “The real question for me is whether the city council will allow LaDoris to do the job she’s supposed to do, to bring some trust and dignity back to the complaint process.”