Council hopeful aims for ‘better service’
Cutline: Former Orange police officer Veronica Woodle is seeking “open communication” between city government and citizens in running for Orange city council.
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
Veronica Woodle says growing up the daughter of a highly visible African-American policeman during the turbulent 1990s in Los Angeles provided her first taste of politics.
Now the former City of Orange police officer has become a politician herself, running for a seat on Orange City Council.
“Welcome to my journey from public service to public office,” is the title on her campaign’s Facebook page.
Woodle registered a month ago to run in the May 6 city election for council at-large Place 6 against popular incumbent Larry Spears, Jr. and the contest has since expanded to include Mary Ekene, a collection supervisor.
Woodle makes it clear she is not running against Spears – or anyone – but for Orange.
“My agenda is to be of better service,” she said. “I resigned [from the Orange Police Department] with every intention of running [for office],” she said. “I knew there had to be a better system.”
A single mother, Woodle says she moved from California to the Golden Triangle to be closer to her mother, who lived in Bon Wier.
She cites experience working as a correctional officer, a substance abuse counselor and a short time for Child Protective Services while getting her criminal justice degree at Lamar University.
She worked six-plus years for the Dallas Police Department, she said, before coming to work for the Orange Police.
“All the skills I got through life, I think it helped me be a better servant to the people in Orange,” she said.
Woodle says she wants to streamline social services to make the process easier to navigate for people in need of assistance.
“The issue that I did have when working here was – and it’s not a complaint on the police department at all – I was running into obstacles,” she said.
“Where are the services? Where are the homeless shelters? Where are the parks that I really would like my children to go, and be proud to take my children to.
“Who am I supposed to talk to to get it fixed?
“These are things that I’m used to knowing, because of where I come from. I’m used to knowing who I could go to or who I could ask about these different services.”
Woodle said both her father and step-mother worked for the Los Angeles Police Department when she was growing up and her father was a bodyguard for the mayor.
She began watching television news to see her father.
“That was when I got my first interest in politics,” Woodle said.
Woodle was 14 when four LA police officers were videotaped beating African-American taxi driver Rodney King. She says the riots that raged a year later in South Central LA after a suburban jury refused to convict the officers “happened right around the corner from my grandmother’s house.”
“I was raised at a time when law enforcement was very controversial,” she said, “and I was always defending law enforcement because that’s what my parents did.”
There was a controversy during Woodle’s time on the Orange police force and unanswered questions surrounding her transition from public servant to wannabe public official.
“I don’t have to talk about it,” she said when asked, and, in reality, neither she nor the city can, thanks to a “non-disparagement” clause in her “Release and Indemnity Agreement” with the city.
The agreement, a copy of which was provided by the city in response to a Texas Public Information Act request by The Record Newspapers, reveals the city and its insurer, the Texas Municipal League Intergovenmental Risk Pool, paid a total of $105,000 to Woodle and her attorney, Terrence B. Robinson, after “claims she was subjected to unlawful race and gender harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and First Amendment retaliation, in connection with her employment with the City of Orange.”
Woodle turned up in TV and print news reports in July, 2016, after images of her in her police uniform appeared in a rap video. She was the focus of an internal investigation by the Orange police department.
Woodle’s attorney at the time argued that she was merely doing her job and positively interacting with citizens when she was videoed and photographed and was shocked when the images turned up in the video dedicated “to all lives lost in violence and police brutality.”
A source in position to know said no charges were ever filed against Woodle in that case, but another source said Woodle was ostracized by her police counterparts.
Both sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
“I’m a true public servant — whether I’m in uniform or out of uniform,” Woodle said. “I feel like I always did what I could to help people.
“I’d like to bring open communication. Sometimes justice is just being heard and being understood.”