OAKLAND — The police department should be dramatically restructured to address the rising tide of crime and violence, according to a study ordered by former Mayor Jerry Brown and embraced by Police Chief Wayne Tucker.

The proposal calls for the city to be divided into five geographic areas and a captain put in charge of each section with the authority to deploy the area's patrol officers, community police officers and specialized crime reduction teams.

"Each captain would have a great deal of flexibility to put his people where he wants them," Tucker said. "It would be a dramatic departure from the way the department operates now."

The plan, which cost the city $50,000, was crafted by New York-based consultants Harnett Associates, who worked with Los Angeles police Chief Bill Bratton when he was the top law enforcement officer in New York City and oversaw the reorganization of that department.

The proposal also emphasizes community policing — but recommends a series of changes toimprove Oakland's system — and would direct police resources based on a intense weekly examination of crime trends and emerging problems to snuff out hot spots before the problem fully engulfs the community.

"The new model will dramatically reduce violent crime and property crime and greatly improve the department's ability to deliver service in Oakland's many neighborhoods," the report stated.

In 2006, overall crime jumped 9 percent, including a 57 percent increase in the number of homicides. In addition, armed assaults spiked 54 percent and robberies increased 29 percent.

Tucker has the full support of Mayor Ron Dellums, who has said that public safety and community policing will be his highest priority, said Karen Stevenson, the mayor's spokeswoman.

"The chief and the mayor are on the same page," Stevenson said. "Community policing is a mindset."

Because of the way the department is currently structured, with a watch commander on each of the department's three shifts in charge of the 35 patrol beats, it "appears unable to focus on countering and driving down crime," according to the proposal.

The captain in charge of each area, assisted by two lieutenants, would be accountable not only to department brass, but to the residents of his district and the Oakland City Council, Tucker said.

"The captain will become the chief of police for that section of the city," Tucker said, adding that the proposal would decentralize the department's decision making.

Currently, the city is divided into six Police Service Areas, which are supervised by a lieutenant, commanding several community police officers and a crime-reduction team.

The consultants found this system ineffective and inefficient because patrol officers rarely work in conjunction with community police officers and often clash.

Similarly, a weekly meeting called "Crime Stop" designed to identify emerging crime trends has proved unsuccessful because it does not focus closely enough on statistics and is cluttered with other business.

Tucker said he expects to finalize the transition plan in the next several weeks and to brief Dellums and his aides. After that, Tucker said he expects to brief council members and meet and confer with the Oakland Police Officers Association.

The changes could be in place in two to three months, Tucker said.

In addition to winning the support of the council and the community, the restructuring faces several significant challenges, according to the report, including the 99 vacant positions in the police department.

According to the report, that under-staffing, especially in the patrol division, is made worse by the requirements of Measure Y, the violence prevention measure approved by voters in 2004, which requires each of Oakland's 57 community police beats, regardless of crime statistics, should have its own community police officer.

According to an opinion from City Attorney John Russo's office, community police officers whose salaries are paid by Measure Y cannot leave their designated areas, although it often takes more than one officer to solve quality of life issues that bedevil communities, such as open-air drug markets. 

"In strictly allotting new police to specified 'community policing' roles, the well-intentioned Measure Y fundamentally undercuts how successful community policing ought to work," the report says.

Tucker said he agreed with the consultants' opinion, and said the success of the plan hinged on the department being given more flexibility to deploy community police officers and crime reduction teams.

The consultants' report also called for the requirements of the reforms prompted by the "Riders" police misconduct scandal to be "streamlined and modified ... (to) interfere less with crime fighting."

According to the consultants, most Oakland police officers view the agreement, which settled a class action lawsuit filed by 119 Oaklanders who claimed a group of rogue officers known as the Riders beat them, framed them and filed false police reports, as an "extremely onerous burden that has severely damaged department efficiency and morale."

Many officers blame the agreement for the 45 percent decrease in misdemeanor arrests in 2002-05, and many officers told the consultants that they are less likely to intervene in marginal situations because of the ramifications if they have to use force against a suspect, according to the report.

Tucker said department commanders were meeting this week with the court-appointed team keeping tabs on the reforms to lift the paperwork burden on sergeants and officers.

The report also recommends that the department increase the number of officers assigned to investigate murders, robberies and assaults while improving its use of technology like DNA testing to nab criminals.

E-mail Heather MacDonald at hmacdonald@angnewspapers.com.