OAKLAND (CBS/AP) – Besieged by spikes in murders and violent crime, Oakland city officials said Thursday they have hired former New York City police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton as a consultant.
Police Chief Howard Jordan said Bratton, regarded as an international expert on reducing crime, combating gang violence and improving police-community relations, will help develop strategies to reduce the violence in one of America’s most dangerous cities.
Bratton will be joining noted police strategist Bob Wasserman, head of the Boston-based Strategic Policy Partnership, who also has consulted many of the nation’s biggest cities on policing.
They will report to Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana. Wasserman, who began in September, is conducting a “top-to-bottom” review of the department, Jordan said. Bratton is expected to join early next year.
“They will give us recommendations, and it is up to me to make sure they’re implemented,” Jordan said at a news conference. “Because at the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to ensure that policing is done at a lawful and constitutional manner that is also effective and efficient to reduce violent crime.”
There have been 127 homicides in Oakland this year, up from 110 from last year. Violent crime is up 23 percent from 2011.
The city will pay $350,000 for the services of Bratton and Wasserman’s group. It has spent about $1 million this year on police consultants, mainly to help reduce a backlog of internal affairs investigations.
Bratton was New York’s police commissioner from 1994 to 1996 and the Los Angeles police chief from 2002 to 2009. He’s widely credited with significantly reducing crime in both cities by double-digit percentages. In Los Angeles, he focused on community policing and worked to resolve tensions between officers and minority communities.
He is credited with co-creating Compstat, the innovative crime-mapping system used in Oakland that uses computer data to direct police to specific high-crime areas. Police in neighboring San Francisco credit the system with helping that city reach near-record-low crime levels.
“We want to see how we can strengthen or improve it based on his experience,” Jordan said about Oakland. “He will have access to community members, there will be focus group meetings within the department, outside the department and with elected officials.”
City Council President Larry Reid said he is excited to have Bratton onboard.
“If you want someone helping you, he’s the one to get,” Reid said. “His record speaks for itself.”
Bratton’s hiring in Oakland comes after a federal judge earlier this month signed off an agreement between the city and two civil rights lawyers to have a court-appointed director oversee the beleaguered police department instead of it being taken over by the federal government.
One of those lawyers, John Burris, said he will take a “wait and see approach” to Bratton’s involvement. Burris noted that in New York, Bratton helped implement the city’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy that experts say helped overall crime dropped dramatically.
The practice allows police to stop, question and pat down anyone who appears suspicious. Critics say it can lead to racial profiling and civil rights violations.
“We’re not going to have that policy here in Oakland, and we will fight that tooth and nail if it comes down to it,” Burris said.
Jordan said Thursday that he thinks Bratton will have some interaction with the soon-to-be-hired compliance director. The director will report to a federal judge and will have the power to overrule major department decisions and seek the dismissal of the police chief and his command staff.
Burris said the city has the right to hire any consultant it chooses, yet he will remain cautiously optimistic.
“Our concern is about the compliance director and any perceived or actual interference with (the director’s) authority,” Burris said. “This is the last best chance we have to get the department in compliance, and we don’t want to have any more cooks in the kitchen, if you will.”
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