OAKLAND -- One of the biggest names in policing is coming to Oakland to help turn around a department he said last year was trapped in "a perfect storm of bad."
William Bratton, who has headed both the New York City and Los Angeles police departments, is being brought in as a consultant to focus on reducing violent crime, city leaders announced Thursday.
"Bratton will help us build on the smart police strategies Chief (Howard) Jordan has already put in place," Mayor Jean Quan said.
Bratton will be advising a department with an increasingly Byzantine management structure that faces enormous pressure from both an angry citizenry fed up with soaring crime rates and a federal judge frustrated with the slow pace court-ordered reforms.
Bratton's role will be separate from that of the soon-to-be named police compliance director, who will have sweeping powers over the department to complete the reform program the city agreed to a decade ago.
Jordan said that Bratton will meet with officers, city officials and community members and "do whatever he needs to do to get a feel for Oakland."
Bratton, who will be paid about $125,000, was not available to reporters.
His crime reduction plan will include a review of the city's crime-tracking technology and recommendations for building trust with residents, the chief added.
Both Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan said that Oakland's crime wave this year was unacceptable. They laid out initiatives for 2013 including reinstituting neighborhood-based policing districts beginning February in East Oakland.
As of last month, burglaries were up 43 percent and robberies were up 24 percent compared to the previous year. Arrests for drug and weapons violations both were down about 25 percent over the same period. The city already has tallied 127 homicides -- 17 more than last year.
During his seven years in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009, Bratton oversaw a 45 percent drop in major crimes and a 41 percent drop in homicides. His tenure in New York City from 1994-96 also coincided with double-digit crime drops.
Council President Larry Reid said Bratton "brings a whole different level of expertise that is sorely needed in our police department."
But Bratton himself has acknowledged that Oakland presents a unique set of challenges.
In a Wall Street Journal interview last year he said he didn't "see anything positive at all happening" in the city.
"It's a perfect storm of bad: too much oversight, not enough support from city leaders, too few officers," he said.
Oakland is down to just 616 officers -- roughly one cop per 660 residents. When Bratton left Los Angeles, the department had roughly one officer per 400 residents.
Bratton has gained a reputation for turning around troubled departments by aggressively pursuing quality of life crimes and meticulously tracking crime data.
He pioneered the CompStat crime tracking system that Oakland recently adopted. Bratton also has defended allowing police officers to "stop and frisk" suspects they believe were involved in a crime -- a tactic that has not been embraced in Oakland.
In Los Angeles, Bratton won accolades for improving relations with minority communities and implementing court-ordered reforms similar to those Oakland police still haven't fully satisfied in the aftermath of the Riders' police brutality scandal.
Oakland's failure to complete those reforms has left it with an increasingly complex police hierarchy. While Jordan answers to top city leaders, the incoming compliance director will also have authority over Jordan but report directly to a federal judge.
Jordan didn't expect Bratton to have contact with the compliance director, who will focus on making sure the department better polices itself.
Frank Zimring, a Berkeley Law School professor who studied Bratton's tenure in New York, said he can help bring organizational know-how to Oakland but needs to be involved in all aspects of the department and have the ear of all the key players.
"There is absolutely no way of separating police crime issues from police management issues," he said. "He should have a portfolio as wide as the issues now confronting Oakland policing."
Bratton last month stepped down as head of Kroll, a private investigation and risk mitigation firm.
In Oakland, he is teaming up with police consultant Robert Wasserman, who already had a $100,000 contract to access the department and review violence and crime prevention strategies.
Quan will be asking the City Council next month to approve an additional $250,000 to Wasserman's firm, Strategic Policy Partnership, LLC, for both short-term and long-term crime reduction studies undertaken by Bratton.
The funds would not come out of the police department budget, and the contract would not have a specific end date, officials said.
Oakland already has spent nearly $1 million this year on police consultants, mostly to clear a backlog of internal affairs investigations.
Jim Chanin, one of two attorneys who represented plaintiffs in the Riders case, said the city has a poor track record of listening to police consultants. "The issue isn't Bratton," he said. "The issue is the sheer number of consultants they've hired and the city's finances."
In addition to bringing in Bratton, the city is moving forward with hiring more civilians to relieve officers from menial tasks and contracting with Alameda County to beef up patrols. With more staffing, Jordan said police would divide the city into five police districts, with top commanders being held more accountable for the sections they control.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.