IPA Takes Issue with Police Shirt Featuring Human Skull, Assault Rifles

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.”

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.


    • Cordell,

      Do you know that the SJPD is giving 5 extra points to military veterans as a recruiting incentive?  These people started shirts like the one you are talking about.  Maybe we should stop recruiting these “thugs” who honorably served our country. 

      Or, Maybe we should just have faith in the psychologists who give police candidates a thumbs up.  Or in the background process that they go through that is very thorough.

      Anyone who truly believes that a T-shirt will turn someone into a thug probably isn’t qualified to be a police auditor.  Sometimes we need to take a deep breath and realize that we can become closed minded when we are in certain roles.  I figure that should come natural to someone who is a retired judge.

      Also, T-shirts aren’t made to improve morale.  They are to show someones association and to instill pride in someones accomplishment(s).  This tends to produce officers who have to remain in good standing to maintain the position.  That usually means administrators can remove that title from the officer so it turns the officer into someone who tends to follow the rules, not a thug.  Kinda like why homeowners tend to keep the house up more than a renter (its called invested). 

      Cordell, I ask you to speak with the thugs and you will see the flaws in your position.  And just like the thugs do…When you make a mistake, fix it.

  1. Thug logo….classic…..next will be the shine on your boots….the shinier your boots are the more racist you are?  I know an officer that wears a black San Jose Shark tshirt under his uniform…he must be a gang member…hahahaha

  2. go climb back into your council hole.  LaDoris you are just another over paid, double dipping political puppet.  This shirt has nothing to do with nothing.  Next your going to try to take away the police coins, change all the investigative unit namesto be politically correct.  Can we still call it a gang unit, Chuck states we don’t have a gang problem after 47 murders so far this year.  I suggest you ask Chuck to be the next COP.

  3. Cordell states that if she was an officer and saw a person wearing this t-shirt her antenna would go up, really!  Wouldn’t that be profiling a person? the very thing she stands against.  Talk about some BS, this is best she can come up with, a fight about a t-shirt.

  4. Notwithstanding the fact that police officers should never embrace or promote the image of themselves as men at war—war being the kill or be killed conflict between armed adversaries (where such savage logos are appropriate), I can’t help but view this controversy as just another example of the police auditor acting outside the course and scope of her official position to interject herself (and her values) in the day-to-day workings of the police department, primarily by turning that same official position into a high profile soapbox.

    Now imagine if some other city employee mirrored her behavior; what if a police officer appeared on local television while off-duty and opined, citing his credentials as a working San Jose cop, that displays of the Mexican flag are offensive to the public and, more often than not, intended to antagonize others. What are the chances his employer would view these remarks as a perspective worth considering? Zero. It wouldn’t matter that a great many Americans are put off by the display of any foreign flag, or that such displays have many times led to violent confrontations. Lacking the political free pass that’s been granted to Ms. Cordell to shoot her mouth off at will, this police officer would step off his soapbox to a very hard landing.

    Ms. Cordell, who’s apparently deluded herself into assuming expertise on the police subculture, seems quite confident that the integrity and professionalism with which SJPD officers perform their duties can be swayed by something as insignificant as what’s printed on an under garment. How she arrived at this conclusion is anyone’s guess, as there has never been a documented case of SJPD officer misconduct linked to a subculture of any kind. None. Clearly, as a group, SJPD officers possess values that run far too deep to be undermined by the artwork on a tee-shirt. But Ms. Cordell doesn’t know this…

    because she doesn’t know anything about police work.

    • Flicker images and wiki articles don’t add anything unless they are put into context. Check out the Rampart scandal board of inquiry executive summary to get a better understanding of what went on.

        http://www.parc.info/client_files/Special Reports/Rampart exec summary.pdf

      The full report details indiviual cases that were the scandal.  The Executive Summary is required reading on all promotional tests @ SJPD.

      If you take the time to read and understand either document you will see that SJPD is at a critical time in its history – the work environment and pressures put on the organization by politicians and public special interest groups and media dictate the working conditions/morale and culture inside the PD.

      LAPD CAVED to politicians, the media and public pressure to lower its own professional standards – they hired some people that were NO GOOD! Once hired Old timers who wanted to uphold old standards were prevented from getting the bums fired – moral fell – supervisors were neutered by policy and external and internal political pressure – once they realized that any effort to uphold a standard that was proven over time was futile they quit supervising and the bums were allowed to run amock, thrive, and infect the entire department. (I may have missed it in the Wiki link but Rafael Perez – the bum who started the whole thing – went to prison served a reduced sentence due to his “cooperation” and once released and immune from further ciminal sanctions announce that he lied about everything!!

      San Jose was warned. Mayor Reed was warned, the council was warned that SJPD could easily become the next Rampart. 

      LA did away with allowing special units having their own “logo” and were justified because the logo “set the unit members and its chain of command” apart from the rest of LAPDs rules and regulations – units developed their own identity apart form LAPD and set up their own unwritten rules and unique cultures.

      If the esteemed IPA had justified her concerns based on Ramparts Findings it would be hard to argue against. But, She didn’t – she just finds the “skull and crossed rifles” offensive.  She is acting on her own subjective bias and pursued her own agenda which she has clearly stated time and time again.

      Cordell believes that “there are bad apples in the SJPD” and thinks it is her mandate to expose them. Shelikens the police department to the rest of society and often says she “knows there are ‘bad apple’ judges, and attorneys, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers…” bad apples in every profession and the police are no different… Cordell believes her job is to expose “bad cops” and all she can do is expose a “bad logo?” Is she really worth the money she is paid? Another Fine Example of a DOUBLE DIPPER!!!

      • Interesting document. Here’s your link without blanks:

        http://www.parc.info/client_files/Special Reports/Rampart exec summary.pdf

        I agree most of the hiring recommendations.  Bad hires can ruin an organization.  Any organization.  It does seem as if they want to infringe on the civil rights of police officers though.  Some of it makes sense, some of it seems excessive.  The issue of what sort of procedures will work under all circumstances is complex.

  5. As if SJPD officers needed any more reasons to absolutely loathe Judge Cordell…

    Once again, Judge Cordell has manufactured a problem where none needed to exist and fabricated a number of red herrings in support of her ongoing quest for political correctness and the emasculation of SJPD.

    1. For the record, police officers do, in fact, carry a variety of weapons which would be classified as dangerous or deadly: on their person, pistols and, often, a folding knife which can be – and, speaking personally, has been – put to a variety of purposes, potentially even self-defense; in the car, a shotgun, and, in the case of those in this tactical unit, an AR-15 type rifle similar to that depicted on the above logo. If Judge Cordell doesn’t like the fact that American police officers carry these tools of the trade, perhaps she should move to the UK where she can steep herself in the miasma of that particular brand of political correctness.

    2. The ‘Specialist Unit’ is composed entirely of volunteers from Patrol Division and is designed to bring to patrol much of the training, experience, skills and tools – specifically the aformentioned rifle – that the full-time tactical units bring to the table. These officers trained very hard in one or more special schools to be able to operate those rifles proficiently. They also train hard every month to maintain, enhance and expand their skillsets and ability to respond to a variety of dangerous situations. These situations include hostage rescues, mass casualty incidents, acts of terror, and situations like those in Columbine or the Trolley Square Shooting.

    You will note that every one of these types of situation are of a dangerous – even deadly nature. They are situations in which skill, ferocity – and especially courage – are admirable and desirable traits. They are also entirely consistent with the stated mission of the Police Department. What is NOT required is passivity, ‘niceness’, or even a passing interest in or concern for Judge Cordell’s delicate politically correct sensibilities.

    3. The shirts boost morale by enhancing esprit de corps. It enhances a sense of unity and camaraderie. When you see a person wearing that shirt – the same one you are, you know that person has been through the same tough training you have, has volunteered for the unit for much the same reasons you have and you have some assurance that you’ll be able to work together and handle some pretty hairy nasty situations.

    4. I would like to know what part of the logo is thuggish in any way. Is it the rifle, one that is similar to that used by American Armed Services? Is it the Latin? Oh, wait, it’s the skull… Except that skulls have been used as logos by professional armed services globally for hundreds of years. Among these incredibly professional groups are the 1st through 5th Marine Recon Battalions, USMC; the VF-84 Naval Aviation Squadron, the USMC Marine Raiders, the 2nd Battalion of the 135 Army Aviation Regiment, and many others. If Judge Cordell would like to see some examples of these logos, she could peruse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skull_and_crossbones_(military). I would then challenge her to assail the professionalism, skill, dedication and, yes, ferocity of these units.

    Yes, SJPD’s mission is to protect the public. And sometimes, the mission requires the use of deadly force against naked unlawful and deadly aggression against the public. Yes, sometimes that means kicking ass and, yes, sometimes it is simply not possible to ‘take prisoners’. ‘Usas Ferocitas’ certainly reflects that reality. But, extending Judge Cordell’s logic – and apparent belief system, a lawful or justifiable homicide is a myth. a belief so contrary to accepted law that it is laughable. But, unfortunately, it is entirely consistent with Judge Cordell’s professional speech and conduct – both of which portray her as a portrait of the desperate and absurd.

    But, hey, there’s still the option to move to the UK – except that, once she was there, she’d be bound to get her ACLU-issued Underoos in a wad over the omnipresent cameras recording the peoples’ every move in public.

  6. I don’t have a problem with anything you say.  I just think it reminds people too much of the LAPD’s Rampart CRASH unit.  It’s the skull.  Get rid of that and you can have all the guns and Latin slogan you want.

    A lot of people posting here complain about Mayor Reed waging a public relations war against law enforcement.  Sometimes you can be your own best friend, or your own worst enemy.

    • There are probably valid arguments for both sides of the issue regarding the logo. I think the more important point to consider is whether or not the intent of the unit logo should be considered police misconduct,my opinion is it is not. If not,then IPA does not need to address,intervene,oversee or monitor a matter not related to the scope of her job. This is like the employee that shuffles papers on the desk when the boss walks by to look busy when in reality no real work is being done and it is a scam!! Let’s put our energy into reviving a once proud and respected police department now dying from a treatable cancer. A cancer brought on by poor city management and a demoralizing campaign from a mayor leading the charge!!!!!

      • Did Cordell bring this up as police misconduct?  That wasn’t clear in the Internal Affairs article.  If so, I agree that it is not justified.  I thought she was just complaining in public.  I think it was appropriate for Chief Moore to ask for a policy on the use of the department name and logo.

        I think some of this is like that scene in “Butch Cassidy”.  “I’ll leave if you ask me to stay.”  I’m sure it’s possible to come up with a logo that team members will be proud to wear and that won’t offend Cordell.  It’ll probably not be that easy now though.

  7. LaDoris Cordell has absolutely zero idea of how police officers think or the culture of the SJPD. Her comments reflect her own anti-police bias.  Police work isn’t done wearing a Judge’s robe,  in a metal detector-protected building, while guarded by an armed bailiff who makes sure that everyone treats you politely.  Police work sometimes involves confronting rather nasty individuals who are are trying to hurt or kill you.  It requires a certain mindset; that, if you are confronted by such a situation, you’re going to do what’s necessary to go home safely.  That’s all the logo that so offends Cordell represents.  A “thug” is someone who victimizes others   A police officer is someone who protects society from the thugs.  Officers who carry assault rifles bring them out only in the most serious of circumstances.  If they use them, they will be judged on their actions. Cordell shouldn’t be worried about what T-shirts they’re wearing.

    Jonathan Wilbanks attempted to murder an SJPD officer a couple of weeks ago, but he sits safely in a jail cell because officers act professionally, not emotionally.  If Cordell had examples of these officers using force improperly, she would cite them.  She can’t because there are no such examples.  Instead, she tries to justify her professional existence by worrying about T-shirts.  Maybe she should campaign for the Oakland Raiders to change their logo as well.  Pathetic.

  8. Cordell is a fool. She was a terrible judge and it was a great sigh of relief in the law enforcement community when she finally stepped down. She coddled criminals and showed a bias toward not applying the law equally in her court. She routinely ignored police officer testimony.

    She is violating the scope of her job as IPA. She is to monitor IA investigations, not set policy. Chief Moore is her puppet and she pulls the strings. You guys are screwed.

  9. No wonder Cordel is pushing so hard to put a camera on each officer and video their every movement and interaction. I could see her taking a video recording completely out of context and twisting it to fit the conclusion of her agenda.

  10. How did a copy of the design come into possession of the IPA anyway?  The mission of the IPA’s office is to “provide independent oversight of and instill confidence in the complaint process through objective review of police misconduct investigations.“What does the uniform, or in this case what is underneath the uniform, have anything to do with her job? Is it going to be routine for the IPA to assess officer’s clothing, on duty or off duty now?  Watch your briefs men!

  11. I would have liked a picture of Gonzo instead of the skull! t shirts 10 bucks
      Usus Ferocitas. Gonzo used us ferousiously!
      How many t shirts could they sell with Reeds picture as the skull? The plank for you awaits.
      LaDoris you know how silly your opposition can be!
    Congradulations on your 4 year appointment!

    The Village Black Smith & Son
    Gil Hernandez
    Paul Hernandez

  12. I think it is also worth pointing out that Ms. Cordell earns (and here I use the term quite loosely) $170,000 plus an additional retirement package and benefits. I have to ask: what is it that she’s done that justifies her earning more than a police lieutenant or captain. Frankly, I can’t stomach the notion that she earns more than even police officers – especially considering the piss poor quality of work she’s produced.

  13. From Chief Deb,

    Cordell said it looks like something biker gangs would wear and could send a questionable message to the public.

    When we asked the brass about it, they agreed it could be misread. Sgt. Jason Dwyer said the shirts are a long-standing tradition and are meant to be worn under their tactical uniforms but not in public. A police-sanctioned specialist pin is already distributed to these officers to display their achievement.

    But Chief Chris Moore understood the auditor’s concern and the risk, however remote, of citizens seeing the shirt.

    “He said we can do better, and have another emblem not subject to misinterpretation,” Dwyer said.

    The chief asked the officer who designed the shirt to go back to the drawing board, and Cordell commended the swift response, saying: “I hope that as a result they will be more careful.”

    Moore has since ordered up a policy requiring items and apparel bearing the department’s name or badge image to be first reviewed by the chief’s office.

    Score one for police accountability! Perhaps the new T-shirt design will have daisies sprouting from the carbine barrels and a peace sign on the skull.
    Using his Web-design skills, Leroy came up with this graphic and suggests it be used to replace the one above…

  14. The notion that the patch reminds Cordell of something biker gangs would wear is like saying police wearing a certain sports jersey reminds her of something a gang member would wear. Yes gang members do wear specific sports jerseys to identify there gang affiliation but, the jersey itself is a benign piece of clothing that does not make the gang member what he or she is. So do we not allow the officers to wear a specific sports jersey because a certain gang wears them, does wearing a Raider or 49ER jersey make you a gang member? I bet if an officer stopped a Norteno gang member wearing a red 49ER jersey and used that clothing as part of the probable cause for the stop Cordell would blow a gasket. You can’t have it both ways, free speech is not applied when it is warm and fuzzy for your agenda
    it is meant to be available to all in equal portions.
    Something I would hope a former judge would have a concept of……….

  15. A couple observations:

    Ms. Cordell should immediately initiate a complaint with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, as their logo of an obviously angry pirate with 2 crossed bats behind him is indicative of a “thug” mentality amongst the teams baseball players. http://www.123tagged.com/Tags/1/pittsburgh+pirates+wallpaper.html

    Also, is it more than just a mere coincidence that Ms. Cordell created 2 furors this past week with the shirts and then the mailer inserts in garbage bills when the city council is set to vote on her next compensation contract and package next week?

  16. Wow, in one contrived issue the IPA over-stepped her jurisdictional authority and profiled an entire police department over a logo’d shirt.  That is setting a new low for double standard. 

    Due to the IPA’s openly hostile position against another City department, the Council needs to step in and either strip the IPA of its self-appointed expanded authority, or remove the IPA altogether.

    As a non-public safety employee, and a City tax-payer, I recognize that PD’s finest are leaving in droves, and for any reason.  If this openly hostile environment by the IPA is allowed to continue, we will loose more officers for all reasons previous, and now this alone.  Just losing one officer and the investment in training them, exceeds the $170k salary being made by the IPA. Council needs to step in and act on this immediately.  I am calling for the IPA’s removal, this is intolerable.

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