OAKLAND — The city has hired Massachusetts-based police management expert Bob Wasserman to lead the search for Oakland's permanent police chief — and officials acknowledge they might have to offer the city's next top cop a contract extending into the next mayoral administration to lure the kind of candidate they want.
Wasserman, chairman of a consulting company called Strategic Policy Partnership, was tapped by Mayor Ron Dellums' administration shortly after the City Council freed up the cash for a national search after Chief Wayne Tucker resigned Feb. 28.
The city is expected to advertise the position as soon as next week. Wasserman said candidates should have "sound experience" in the design and implementation of crime-reduction strategies; experience policing a diverse city; a dedication to transparency; and the willingness to work in a collaborative manner with all parts of Oakland's community.
And there's one more point.
"They have to have an outfit with a big red 'S' on it," Wasserman quipped, "like Superman."
Being Oakland's police chief is no easy job, to be sure. Tucker resigned this year facing a vote of no-confidence from the City Council. Oakland is still one of the most dangerous cities in the state even with a downturn in crime so far this year. And with Oakland's budget in dire shape, the city could move to lay off officers, depending on a number of factors, including how much it gets from a federal COPS grant.
There's another challenge: With a new mayor expected to take office in 2011, candidates for the position will likely want assurance they will still have a job when a different administration takes over at City Hall.
Every Oakland police chief in recent memory has worked in an at-will capacity, with no contract. But Wasserman and City Administrator Dan Lindheim both said the city will probably have to offer a contract of some kind this time.
The application process is open to OPD insiders and outsiders.
Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan said he will likely apply and would seek at least a three-year contract.
"I'm leaning toward applying for it," Jordan said.
Other potential applicants with OPD connections include Deputy Police Chief David Kozicki; East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis, a former OPD captain; Vallejo Chief Bob Nichelini, a former OPD deputy chief; UCSF police Capt. Paul Berlin, a former OPD lieutenant; and James K. "Chips" Stewart, a former OPD captain now working at a Virginia-based consulting firm whose specialties include public safety.
Names mentioned as possible outside applicants include George Gascón, police chief in Mesa, Arizona; and Michael Berkow, chief of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department in Georgia; and Cam Sanchez, police chief in Santa Barbara.
Dellums originally suggested the city use the Police Executive Research Forum, the firm San Francisco tapped for its search for a police chief, but Lindheim said Wasserman (who has no relation to the mayor of Fremont of the same name) offers Oakland the best chance to find the chief it wants. Wasserman was recommended by former City Manager Robert Bobb, Lindheim said.
"He's not doing a traditional search," Lindheim said. "In a traditional search, you rely on finding people who are looking for jobs. "... We're trying to find people who aren't necessarily looking, but who would be both experienced and appropriate for the job."
Wasserman's experience includes advising the federal government on intelligence-led policing and assisting a number of jurisdictions in finding police chiefs including, most recently, Milwaukee, Wisc. He also aided Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton when he took over as Police Commissioner in New York and, later, when he became head of LAPD.
Robert Stewart, former Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, is working with Wasserman on the Oakland search.
The city's contract with Strategic Policy Partnership totals $40,000, $22,000 for professional services plus $18,000 in estimated expenses, the city said. The city expects a list of final candidates will be submitted to Dellums in late June or July.
Any contract offered would have to be approved by the City Council. Councilmember Larry Reid (Elmhurst-East Oakland), chair of the public safety committee, who agrees the application should be open to insiders and outsiders alike, believes the council would have to agree to a contract guaranteeing employment into the next administration for anyone from the East Coast, the South or the Midwest to consider coming to Oakland.
"You've got to give the new police chief a three-year contract or even a four-year contract," Reid said.
Council President Jane Brunner (North Oakland) said she would be "open to having the conversation" on offering a contract.
Brunner said she is looking for an intelligent candidate with experience in urban policing who would bring national best practices to the department and would implement a strategic plan for reducing crime.