Oakland meeting has lively debate over Bratton

January 15, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Oakland Police Department wants some help from the Alameda County Sheriff's Department to make the streets safer. The City Council is considering a proposal to have deputies patrol city streets, in response to alarming violence in Oakland recently.

Everyone agrees that violent crime in Oakland is out of control, but not everyone agrees on the best way to fight it. Councilmember Libby Schaaf says Oakland needs almost twice as many officers working the streets than it has now.

"We're talking about having a normally sized police force for that city of our size needs to perform basic protections for our citizens," she said.

One-thousand officers would be 387 more than the city currently has at 613 and many more than the 40 expected to graduate from the current police academy.

That's why Schaaf says passage of a proposal to put members of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office on patrol and quick authorization of a police academy that will begin in June is key to reducing crime.

"I can only be hopeful that positive support will continue to the full council," she said.

The proposal also includes a request to hire 21 civilian employees for the police department, some to support the crime lab.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan says 90 percent of the killings, robberies and shootings since the summer of last year are directly tied to two groups in a war that erupted after a 16-year-old girl, believed to be Tattiauon Turner, was shot and killed as she left a store on Talbot Avenue with friends in August.

The spike in crime has city leaders looking for help. A proposal to have former New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton as a paid consultant on the city's crime fighting strategy is a plan put forward by Jordan.

"A lot of the stuff that he does, really depends and relies on the community," he said.

A community besieged by gun violence saw it continue Monday night. Police say a man was shot on a stretch of Sunkist Drive. They wouldn't give many details, but did say the victim is expected to survive his injuries.

Schaff says it's simple, more officers on the street equals a drop in crime, while others argue for more community policing and less involvement from outside sources.

"The reason why we would be skeptical at best of these quick-fix police schemes, they seem to take community voices off the table," Stop the Injunctions Coalition spokesperson Isaac Ontiveros said.

Opponents say they have seen the city council spend and waste money on policing programs in the past that have failed only to stick their hands in the cookie jar for more.

On Tuesday night, the first step was taken toward hiring the police consultant with a big-time resume. Some Public Safety Committee members still aren't quite sure they want Bratton on the job, even though he is credited with reducing violent crime in New York City. Many people say his methods are the same methods that caused a rift between the community and the police in Oakland to begin with.

"Bratton is exactly what we do not need in the city of Oakland," Dan Siegel said to a group of protesters outside City Hall.

The protest against the hiring of Bratton started on the steps of City Hall Tuesday evening and worked its way into the public safety meeting. During the meeting some of the observers were ordered to leave for being rowdy.

Bratton's "zero tolerance" police strategies have been highly controversial in other cities and his use of gang injunctions, curfews, and anti-loitering laws have been rejected in Oakland in the past. However, Oakland is facing a crime epidemic. Just last Friday, four people were killed in less than 10 hours. If hired, the city would pay Bratton $250,000.

"If you really need to hear what he has to say why don't you have Howard Jordan buy his book on Amazon for $18?" Oakland resident J.P. Massar said to the committee.

Protesters fear the use "stop and frisk" techniques, that Bratton introduced in New York, will lead to racial profiling. "Stop and frisk" enters a gray area that questions: what is reasonable suspicion? Just last week a federal judge found it to be in violation of people's civil rights.

"Officers have the right, based on reasonable suspicion, to stop anyone," Jordan said. He says too much emphasis has been made on Bratton's "stop and frisk" methods. "A large part of his success in New York and in L.A. was based on community partnership and that is something we are definitely in support of here."

Again, the public safety commission voted to recommend a contract to hire a consultant, but not necessarily Bratton. It now goes to the full council next week and it's expected to be another lively discussion.


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