Former San Jose independent police auditor LaDoris Cordell will helm the commission charged with investigating the troubled Santa Clara County Jail, Supervisor Dave Cortese announced Monday.
The Board of Supervisors called for the formation of the 25-member Blue Ribbon Commission after the death of inmate Michael Tyree at the county's main jail in August. Three deputies are facing murder charges in that case.
Cordell, a retired judge, said the commission will make recommendations to make sure what happened to Tyree doesn't happen to anyone else.
Santa Clara County taxpayers deserve to know what happens within the jails since they financially support custody operations and salaries for the Sheriff's Office, Cordell said.
"These are taxpayers' dollars paying for everything, even the complaint process," Cordell said, "and we have the right to know what that process is, and if it's not working well, then make recommendations to make it better."
A few issues Cordell said she would like the commission to look into are how correctional officers deal with inmates suffering from mental illness, the background and requirements of jail staff and civilian oversight on the inmate complaint process. The county says the commission will operate with broad powers.
Cordell hopes the commission will complete its work 120 days, or four months, after the first meeting and at the end make recommendations for the board's consideration.
Also on the commission will be Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, who runs the jails. Some had hoped her name would not be on the list. "I welcome the scrutiny," Smith said Monday. "Let's look. Is there a better way to do the job?"
Cortese announced appointments to the commission during a news conference Thursday at the County Government Center in San Jose.
"These commissioners have been selected to serve because of their unique individual perspectives as to how best to move our current mindset and thought process when it comes to incarceration to a more holistic approach that better serves the public and keeps inmates, custody staff and visitors safe," Cortese said.
She estimates the meetings to be held twice a month, possibly midday on Saturdays to accommodate people working during the weekdays.
Cordell was first African-American woman appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 1982 as a judge in Northern California where she served in municipal court in Santa Clara County, according to San Jose city officials.
She was elected as judge to Superior Court in San Jose in 1988 and continued to serve for 10 years. While independent police auditor, Cordell criticized the San Jose police for their "curb sitting" practice, in which people detained by officers had to sit on a curb, and long investigations into police misconduct.
She was also appointed in 2013 to lead an 18-member task force on race relations at San Jose State University after alleged hate crimes against a black freshman student by four Caucasian roommates at an on-campus housing unit.
The full list of commission members:
Retired Judge, Hon. LaDoris Cordell
Retired Judge, Hon. Susan Bernardini
Active Judge. Hon. Stephen Manley
Wes Mukoyama, SCC Behavioral Health Board
Gail Price, Chair, SCC Behavioral Health Board
Navah Statman, National Alliance on Mental Illness
Dr. Divya Reddy, Union of American Physicians and Dentists
Pastor Dale Weatherspoon, Mountain View
Pablo Gaxiola, Goodwill of Silicon Valley Re-entry Employment Programs
Christine Clifford, San Jose, PACT, Debug
Rose Amador-LeBeau, La Raza/CTC
Enrico "Rick" Callendar, NAACP
Alison Brunner, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Hope Holland, National Alliance on Mental Illness (former inmate)
Erin O'Neill, City of San Jose, Office of the Independent Police Auditor
Dennis Grilli, Former Police Officer with experience in custody operations
Otto Lee, Former City Councilmember City of Sunnyvale
Ann Rosenzweig, Active member of Amnesty International
Sheriff Laurie Smith
Correction Chief John Hirokawa
District Attorney Jeff Rosen
Public Defender Molly O'Neal
Probation Chief Laura Garnette
Director of Behavioral Services Toni Tullys
Supervisor Cindy Chavez
Supervisor Ken Yeager
Bay City News contributed to this report.