Rethinking Our Cops and Courts

A conversation with
LaDoris Cordell
Superior Court Judge, Retired
Independent Police Auditor for San Jose, Retired

Tuesday, July 14, 7:00 pm
Community Media Center, 900 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto [map]

Following numerous high-profile cases of police killings of unarmed African American and Latino civilians, public confidence in law enforcement is clearly in crisis. California is not immune. Suggestions have been made — and rather widely supported — to require police to wear body cameras. But is that a sufficient response to deeply endemic problems? What else can be done?

At this month’s Other Voices forum, we’ll examine some other ideas.

At the urging of San Jose’s Independent Police Auditor, Judge LaDoris Cordell, the department there started collecting basic demographic data about every police stop made, regardless of whether an arrest was made or not. An initial analysis of the data shows results that, while perhaps not surprising, are nevertheless alarming. Although black and Latino residents are a third of San Jose’s population, they comprise almost two-thirds of the individuals stopped in 2014.

Judge Cordell and legislators in Sacramento are urging all police departments in the state to compile data in the way San Jose has started doing. A bill recently introduced in the legislature would require them to do so.

“State-wide data collection of police stops … is the starting point. Once we understand what is happening on the streets, we can go forward together — police and community — to balance public safety and the right all Californians to be treated with dignity and respect.” – Judge Cordell (SJ Mercury News)

Judge Cordell also believes the grand jury system must be abolished.

“As demonstrated in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, today’s state criminal grand juries serve no useful purpose and make a mockery of justice; they should be abolished. There is nothing grand about grand juries.” – Judge Cordell (Slate)

Join us for this timely conversation with someone who has a true inside perspective and expertise on the urgent need for police and court reforms. Come prepared to join the conversation with your questions and suggestions.

LaDoris CordellLaDoris Cordell is a 1974 graduate of Stanford Law School. A native of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, she has resided in California since 1971. For five years, she practiced law in East Palo Alto, California, establishing herself as the first lawyer to open a private law practice there. In 1978, she was appointed Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at Stanford Law School, a job that she held in addition to her private law practice.

In 1982, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Ms. Cordell to the Municipal Court of Santa Clara County, making her the first African American woman judge in all of northern California. On June 7, 1988, Judge Cordell overwhelmingly won election to the Superior Court of Santa Clara County. She was the first African American Superior Court Judge in the county’s history, and the first African American woman to sit on the Superior Court in northern California.

In 2010, following a national search, Judge Cordell was appointed by the San Jose City Council to the position of Independent Police Auditor. When this forum is held, she will have just retired from that position. (Judge Cordell’s biography at

Top photo: Evert Barnes @ Flickr
hoto of Judge Cordell: Laurie Naiman

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