Gene Hazzard is Oakland’s latest in a line of people who remind the Oakland City Council and in this case, the Oakland Police Commission, of when it’s screwing up. In the October 22, 2020, meeting of the Oakland Police Commission, Mr. Hazzard did not contain his displeasure with the way now former Oakland Police Commissioner Ginale Harris was treated.
Ginale Harris Defended Poor African American Oaklanders Against Racist Treatment By OPD And Courts
Ginale Harris was treated terribly by an institutionally-racist Oakland Police Industrial Complex. For example, take Harris questioning how Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, who has an unfortunate track record of not getting the best deal for blacks accused of wrong-doing. Harris mentioned that at the March 28, 2019 Police Commission meeting.
At the At the March 28th 2019 Oakland Police Commission meeting, the Commission considered for discussion a policy on the Oakland Police Department’s approach to people on probation or parole. Edwin Prather an Oakland Police Commission appointee of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, referred to the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office and Chief Public Defender Brendon Woods as one who should be involved.
Now, Harris was trying to say that Woods, who is black, was not properly defending black men – so she called him, for all practical purposes, white. Was it biting commentary, yes, but there’s also some truth to the claim from the perspective of what the public defender could do in terms of more effective representation, versus what the overall system gives him the budget to do.
Remember, Brendon Woods is appointed, not elected. So, from the start, the chance to have a truly reform-driven public defender is automatically taken out of possibility. That is, unless Woods gets religion and decides to really go to bat for true reform. He’s not done that and a cursory read of news about him reflect that. So, the current system that constantly wrongly incarcerates black men remains in place in Alameda County.
As a public official, Brendon Woods should not shy away from criticism, and should welcome it, especially when it comes from a black woman who happens to be an Oakland Police Commissioner as was the case for Ginale Harris. But it’s clear he did not in her view. Still, because she did, Ginale Harris was the focus of a blog post taking a ton of words to say that she was racist for pointing out racism. Moreover, since the author of the post does not have the guts to give his real name, I’m not going to link to it.
But after Harris questioned Woods, he responded “Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware … I guess, Commissioner Harris, that you weren’t aware that I was an African American male. I mean, you were not. Now you are.” Now, Brendon Woods should not have said anything, and just asked how he could do better as a public official. But the fact he elected to blast a black female public official for pointing out what was a racial blind spot in her view was out of line. And for anyone in media to attack Harris for keeping Woods in check, regardless of how stinging her view may be, is irresponsible, and itself, institutionally racist.
It was actions like that which led to Harris ouster before her term was officially up, and in a way that looked rigged to me – just saying, in my opinion. Harris also asked for compensation for her towed car from OPD. One thing: you don’t know the circumstances behind her request, do you. Well, Harris car was wrongly towed to start with, and she’s a (now was) rather effective Oakland Police Commissioner. Who’s to say OPD itself under Anne Kirkpatrick didn’t have it in for her? Far to ask if it did, under the current circumstances. The Oakland Police should not take action against an Oakland Police Commissioner, but that’s pretty much what was done to Harris when Kirkpatrick was Police Chief, in my opinion.
And note, Harris term was to end October 2020, but she was out much sooner. The Oakland Police under Chief Kirkpatrick hired a private investigator to check on her, and then form a list of claims against her. That, in itself, should have been illegal.
But I digress. It was that, and other episodes of injustice toward Oakland Police Commissioner Ginale Harris that led Gene to issue this missive on October 22, 2020:
John Alden:Okay.Gene Hazzard:Thank you, Mr. Alden. Thank you, Madame Chair.
This is Gene Hazzard. I’d like to express my displeasure with the two new commissioners, because that selection process was terrible. You got commissioners who’ve never been at a Commission meeting. And then, we also see the two additional members, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Jackson, and the mayor pull the item for their approval by the council Tuesday. Why? Because of the dark side of Mr. Hall. And Mr. Jackson is the chair of the Public Ethics Commission, where is he going to find the time? And you talk about the amount of work that’s being required on this body. I don’t think Mrs. Harris ever missed a meeting in the three years. And if she did, it may have been one or two. You got commissioners not being present as she continues to work way beyond what’s required because she’s dedicated.Gene Hazzard:This is unconscionable. I really… And I don’t know how much work you’re all going to get done in the days and weeks and months, and you sit here with these four new persons. I hope the mayor should remove Mr. Jackson for consideration. Gosh, there’s no way unless he’s been removed from the Public Ethics Commission. And you got all these folks out here and you’re going to get somebody who’s already engaged with a high intensity commission. Come on. Unless it’s designed to stop the work of the-John Alden:Thank you, Mr. Hazzard. Your time’s expired, I’ll lower your hand in the queue.
So, the City of Oakland owes Ms. Harris a giant apology. And so does Mr. Woods.
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