OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Oakland city officials were still shocked Friday after learning that well-respected, retired Oakland police officer Harry Hu had pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a Chinese gang leader.
It was a stunning fall from grace for a man fellow officers used to call “big brother.”
In his plea deal agreement that was released Thursday, Hu outlined the bribes he took after he retired from the police department. Some people are now questioning if he took money from criminals during his time in the department.
Hu was renowned for his part in dismantling powerful Asian gangs in Oakland. Now he admits to taking bribes from a Chinese mobster.
Lieutenant Harry Hu retired from the Oakland Police Department in 2007 to go work for the Alameda County District Attorney as an inspector.
He told a federal judge between 2008 and 2013, he took bribes from gang leader Wing Wo Ma in exchange for helping Ma avoid prosecution.
In the plea agreement, Hu said “Ma provided me with things of value that included at least three trips to Las Vegas and a trip to Reno. Ma provided my airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, alcohol, and entertainment that included hiring women.”
Hu said he was able to get Ma off of a marijuana grow house case in 2009.
Hu says in 2013, he knew Ma was suspected of killing two people, but did not say anything to investigators.
The guilty plea came as shock to those who knew Harry Hu as an upstanding officer, including former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan and Chinese community leader Carl Chan.
“He was helping us to dismantle the Asian gang, which came in to Chinatown as well as the East Lake area doing extortion,” said Chan.
“This isn’t something that happened overnight. It happened over a period of time. My question is what made him go to the dark side,” said Jordan.
Chan meet Hu when he was just a rookie in 1981 patrolling Oakland’s Chinatown.
Chan credited him with bridging the gap between the police department and Chinese business owners.
He said Hu also inspired many Chinese Americans to work as police officers.
In fact, Hu was known to many Asian officers as “dai lo,” which means “big brother” in Chinese.
Former Chief Jordan now questions if Hu might have gone rogue even before retiring from the department.
“Harry’s involvement, his selfishness, his desire to cross the line, is an embarrassment for all of us,” said Jordan.
Hu will be back in court next April for his sentencing hearing.
He is facing up to five years in prison.