The veteran who hails from Harlem

Anthony Hailey opens up about his life and the experiences that shaped him.


Photo courtesy of Anthony Hailey

Professor Anthony Hailey served in the armed forces around the world.

Michael Benedian, Staff Writer

“First time I got in trouble I stole a 5 cent bag of potato chips, that’s how much it cost,” Los Medanos College Administration of Justice professor Anthony Vleet Hailey said, reminiscing about his childhood back in New York. He smiles as he recalls his confrontation with Mr. Robertson, a shopkeeper he knew well growing up.

“He called my mom because that’s how close we were. She came to the store and she whipped my tail right in front of Mr. Robertson and made me wash his windows for a week!” Hailey’s hearty laugh, ashen gray buzz cut and beard give him that charismatic look of a man who’s experienced a fulfilling life, and that statement is not far off the mark.

Hailey and his three younger siblings were raised by their mother in Harlem, Manhattan. Growing up in such an iconic place gave Hailey the opportunity to be close to culture and his community, and his mom made it a point to make sure the family was exposed to it.

“My mother took us to operas, to museums, and all of that stuff that was available,” said Hailey. “We spent a lot of time going to Broadway. Even though we were poor, we were rich when it came to cultural things.”

Being raised by a woman meant that Hailey didn’t have a male influence in his life.

“New York is a great place but there’s a lot of negative temptation too if you succumb to that,” he said. “My mom saw that and she said ‘I have to get him out of here.’”

Hailey was sent off to live with his aunt in San Jose, where he began his academic career at Evergreen Valley College in 1977. One thing that surprised him about moving to California was the nonexistence of mom-and-pop pizza parlors.

“I wasn’t used to that,” he said. “I was used to the little individual, mostly Italian-run places, and you walk up to the window outside and they serve you out there, and you can buy slices!”

Despite his current teaching profession, Hailey didn’t pursue criminal justice at the outset but instead steered into that direction due to his love of history. His early dream jobs were either to be a New York bus driver, the mayor or the shortstop for the Yankees.

Hailey graduated with a degree in history from Evergreen Valley College but found it difficult to find a job. He started working part-time for San Jose Parks and Recreation but couldn’t get enough hours to make ends meet, so he joined the military. His first choice was the Air Force but instead joined the Army for a two-year enlistment when they didn’t have positions he had the aptitude for.

After serving his two years in Fort Mcclellen, Alabama, Hailey reapplied to the Air Force for a position as an Air Force Law Enforcement officer. He spent most of his time stationed in Clark Air Base south of Manila, Philippines. It was during this time that the Philippines was under a dictatorship by former President Ferdinand Marcos. Despite that, Hailey was excited and enjoyed his time seeing new sights and new sounds.

“I have a soft spot in my heart for that country ever since, and the people, and that’s years back,” he said, recalling all his experiences with the locals and new locations in the Air Force.

While on duty as a policeman on base, Hailey got a call about a robbery in a nearby club. His jeep pulled up to the door and the robbers shot through it and hit Hailey in the leg, breaking his femur and putting him out of commission for a couple of months. Hailey still feels the lingering effects and continues to go to physical therapy.

“One good thing that came out of it was that while I couldn’t drive or do patrols, I learned how to be a dispatcher,” he said with a chuckle.

After returning to New York in 1984, Hailey found it difficult to readjust to civilian society after being in the military for so long. While he waited to be hired full-time by the police department he worked as a trader on Wall Street, an armed security guard for a security company, and went to EMT school. He worked for three years in the New York City Police Department but after seeing how difficult it was to be promoted, he joined a federal police department and later on transferred to California.

Hailey’s 10 years and 10 months of experience working as a police officer in Santa Clara County are chock full of interesting stories, like the time he was involved in a prison riot when all the inmates got drunk on pruno, a prison wine made by fermenting fruits with yeast for several days. His favorite part of the job was the sociological aspect of working in Corrections, pulling inmates out of their cells to chat with them and just trying to understand the criminal mind. He had also gained a reputation for his strict personality and quick outbursts during his time there.

“I had a nickname in Corrections when I first got there,” Hailey said, “They called me Microwave because I would get hot in a second.”

After retiring from the police force, Hailey switched professions to teaching middle school all around the state, from Fresno to Bakersfield, and was even a high school principal for a school in San Francisco. He settled down in Brentwood where he would continue to teach here at Los Medanos College.

Hailey’s experiences shaped him into someone who truly cares for his community. As a professor, he is able to use those experiences to further enhance his teaching and make every lesson about the criminal justice system memorable.

“Professor Hailey is always willing to help, goes the extra mile to help students and does so with a positive attitude,” said Kelly Green of the Early College Credit Program. “His classes are informative not only for ADJUS majors but also any student who wants to learn more about their rights, and the justice system as a whole.”

Hailey expects to be teaching at Los Medanos until he’s 70-years-old. He made the decision however at the age of 63-years-old to attend law school full time by the fall semester, but not to practice law. Hailey hopes that by going he’ll be able to formulate better questions and become a better professor.

“I want to be able to challenge my students by putting together great questions and looking at issues from a different angle, not just from an enforcement angle but an angle of understanding the law itself,” Hailey said.