San Jose’s recently retired independent police auditor will lead a task force assigned to investigate Santa Clara County’s jails.
LaDoris Cordell, who served as a judge before becoming a civilian police auditor, will chair blue ribbon commission, county officials announced Monday.
LaDoris Cordell to Helm Santa Clara County's Jail Commission | NBC Bay Area https://t.co/FO9ABwidGR
— Dave Cortese (@DaveCortese) October 27, 2015
The Board of Supervisors convened the committee after the Aug. 27 beating death of 31-year-old mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree. Three jail guards were charged with his murder: Jereh Lubrin, Matthew Farris and Rafael Rodriquez.
In the week that followed, Sheriff Laurie Smith, who oversees the Department of Corrections (DOC), called for a top-down review of custody operations. From a field of nearly 100 applicants, Supervisor Dave Cortese appointed the following 25 people to the board.
- LaDoris Cordell, retired Santa Clara County judge and former independent police auditor
- Susan Bernadini, retired Santa Clara County judge
- Stephen Manley, Santa Clara County judge
- Wes Mukoyama, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Board
- Gail Price, Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Board
- Navah Statman, National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Divya Reddy, Union of American Physicians and Dentists
- Dale Weatherspoon, pastor
- Pablo Gaxiola, former inmate, Goodwill of Silicon Valley Re-entry Programs
- Christine Clifford, San Jose PACT and Silicon Valley De-Bug
- Rose Amador-LeBeau, La Raza Roundtable
- Rick Callendar, NAACP
- Alison Brunner, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
- Hope Holland, National Alliance on Mental Illness, former inmate
- Erin O’Neill, San Jose Office of the Independent Auditor
- Dennis Grilli, former police officer from Santa Clara and Richmond
- Otto Lee, former Sunnyvale mayor
- Cindy Chavez, county supervisor
- Ken Yeager, county supervisor
- Sheriff Laurie Smith
- DOC Chief John Hirokawa
- Chief Probation Officer Laura Garnette
- District Attorney Jeff Rosen
- Behavioral Health Director Toni Tullys
- Alternate: Ann Rosenzweig, member of Amnesty International
“They were chosen for their unique perspectives that can move us toward a more holistic approach to better serve and keep inmate, custody staff and visitors safe,” Cortese told reporters at Monday's press conference.
The commission will hold a series of public meetings over the next four months to evaluate jail procedures and issue recommendation on how to improve them. Cordell will guide commissioners to set meeting dates and drum up a work plan.
“The tragic death of Michael Tyree must mean something," Cortese said. "His death must be a catalyst for a new paradigm as to how our society treats those in custody with mental health challenges.”
While it's better to be proactive rather than reactive, Cordell said, at least the county has acted quickly in forming the commission.
“Santa Clara County has a unique opportunity born through tragedy to do something bold, dramatic and affordable if we collectively think big, innovatively and be unafraid to act on our values," Cortese added.
The commission will meet once or twice a month on Saturdays to give the public a chance to attend. The meetings will be streamed online and broadcast on local public access TV.
Sheriff Smith said she welcomes the scrutiny.
"I’m open to any and all ideas on improving our operations," she said.
Cordell said she agreed to participate in the commission because of Smith's promise of transparency.
In 2013, Cordell served on an 18-member task force charged with studying race relations at San Jose State University after four white students were arrested for alleged hate crimes against an African American student.
The county posted a video of Monday's press conference on the blue ribbon commission here.