OAKLAND -- Opponents of bringing in former LAPD Chief William Bratton to help turn around Oakland's police force can take solace from one fact if they lose the vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting -- when members of Bratton's proposed consulting team last produced a major report for the city, many of their recommendations never were put in place.
One of Bratton's selling points has been that his team would include longtime associates William Andrews and Patrick Harnett, former police chief of Hartford, Conn. In 2007, they produced a $50,000 plan for Oakland to restructure its police department after a crime spike the previous year.
The plan called for dividing Oakland into five neighborhood policing zones to further community policing and increase accountability among newly empowered district captains. It also urged the city to hire police technicians to deal with mundane jobs like burglary calls so officers could do more crime-fighting.
Six years later, the City Council is finally scheduled to vote on adding the technicians and Chief Howard Jordan is moving ahead with the police district plan. His declared support for five police districts last month came on the same day that the city announced the proposed contract for Bratton, Harnett and Andrews.
The opposition to Bratton, mostly among civil liberty activists and Occupy Oakland alumni, stems from his support for giving police increased latitude in stopping potential suspects.
Bratton supporters hope his stature as one of the world's most accomplished police chiefs would give the team's recommendations added weight and put more pressure on the city to follow through on them.
The council on Tuesday could choose to exclude Bratton from the $250,000 contract, but stick with Harnett and Andrews as the primary consultants.
The contract calls for an assessment of cultural issues within the police department, a short-term crime reduction plan, and a long-range plan to help police best fight crime despite anemic staffing levels. The consultants would spend about 50 days in the city over several months, far more than the eight days Harnett and Andrews spent working on their 2007 report.
That report remains well-regarded, but also served to illustrate the limited impact outside consultants can have in a department that is lacking in resources and has gone through four chiefs in the past decade.
Proposals in the report to increase the department's investigative and crime lab capacity and to assign investigators to weekend shifts so they could get a jump on major cases floundered amid successive budget cuts. The department did take the consultants' advice to make problem-solving community policing officers more accountable for crime fighting.
"I think we implemented as much as we could reasonably do with the resources we had," then-police Chief Wayne Tucker said.
The premise behind dividing Oakland into five policing districts, each headed by a captain and two lieutenants, was to make top commanders local crime-fighting experts, give them more power to direct officers and hold them fully accountable for increases in crime.
But a lack of staffing and equipment forced police to divide the city into only three districts, Tucker said.
When Oakland laid off 80 police officers in 2010, Tucker's replacement, Anthony Batts, decided to divide the city into only two policing districts. The five-district concept was notably missing from Batts' strategic report produced by a different consulting firm.
"You had an incoming chief with his own priorities," said U.C. Berkeley School of Law professor Frank Zimring. "There was no continuity of management after that round of consultants."
There is no guarantee that Oakland's current police brass will be around to see through Bratton's recommendations. The city will soon have a court-appointed compliance director with the power to fire Jordan and demote his deputies if police don't soon complete a decade-old reform effort.
Zimring expected the compliance director would want the consulting effort to be as far along as possible before he had to assess the chief's ability to implement reforms.
City Administrator Deanna Santana said this consultant's report would be followed through with frequent monitoring and progress reporting. "The plan will speak for the entire city organization," she said. "It's for more than one person to implement and follow through on."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.