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Bratton Begins Work In Oakland, Says Crime Problem ‘Winnable’

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William J. "Bill" Bratton (Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Conde Nast)

William J. “Bill” Bratton (Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Conde Nast)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Police expert William Bratton said Wednesday that he thinks fighting Oakland’s crime problem is “a very winnable situation.”

Bratton, 65, who has headed the police departments in New York, Los Angeles and Boston and is now acting as a consultant, told reporters at a news conference at police headquarters, “I think we have an opportunity to make some early gains” in Oakland.

The Oakland City Council voted at a marathon meeting in late January to add Bratton to a team of police experts headed by Robert Wasserman, the former chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Bill Clinton, that’s advising Police Chief Howard Jordan on fighting crime.

The city is paying $250,000 for the police experts’ advice.

Many of the more than 100 speakers who addressed the City Council in January spoke strongly against hiring Bratton, alleging that he advocates aggressive police techniques including one commonly called “stop and frisk” that they believe result in racial profiling.

Bratton said today that the correct term for the technique he supports is “stop, question and frisk” because most stops of potential suspects end with questions and don’t result in frisking people.

He said, “There’s not a police department in America that would be effective without it,” but cautioned that officers should use the technique constitutionally, compassionately and consistently in all neighborhoods.

Jordan, who previously has said Oakland police won’t use “stop and frisk” techniques, stepped in and said, “This department doesn’t condone bias-based policing” and officers only focus on stopping what he described as a small percentage of people who commit most of the crime in the city.

Bratton said he arrived in Oakland on Sunday and a police official immediately took him on a tour of the city that included stops at the site of a murder that occurred at 28th and Myrtle streets around 11 a.m. that day and a retaliatory shooting a mile away a short time later.

Bratton said he’d had a bad impression of Oakland based on what he’s read in the news media over the years but after three days in the city he’s “very impressed.”

He said he and the other police experts will advise Jordan on reducing homicides, robberies and burglaries that he said “are plaguing the city.”

Bratton said he will work with Oakland police on improving their use of a crime statistics program called Compstat that he helped develop when he was police chief in New York, calling the program “critical to success” and “the engine that pushes the city forward” in fighting crime.

Asked why Oakland residents should believe he and the experts now working with the city will be successful in helping fight the city’s crime problem when other experts have failed in the past, Bratton said, “We bring a fresh perspective.”

He said, “There are not a lot of good ideas, but it’s how you apply them. We’re like a good doctor who finds the right prescription.”

Continuing the metaphor, Bratton said, “It’s like a doctor bringing in additional doctors to consult with him and do second and third diagnoses.”

He boasted of his success in fighting crime throughout his career, saying that in his more than 20 years of being a police chief in big cities “there was never a year when crime didn’t go down.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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