Bratton controversy divides Oakland community as council approves contract 7-1

Pub date January 24, 2013
SectionPolitics Blog

Following a highly attended and closely watched meeting on Tuesday, Oakland City Council voted 7-1 to approve a $250,000 contract to hire a team of police consultants which includes controversial stop-and-frisk advocate Bill Bratton. During an eight-hour meeting that went until 2 a.m., hundreds of residents crammed into the council chambers to weigh in, some voicing concerns about what Bratton would mean for Oakland and others offering support for bringing him on to advise the Oakland Police Department (OPD) on combating crime.

While several council members voiced reservations about Bratton’s association with the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, only District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks voted against the contract. Brooks stressed that any effort to fight crime in Oakland would require more than aggressive policing, and must address the root causes of criminal activity.

“A vote against this contract tonight is not about not being serious about crime,” she said. “It’s about [how] we need to do the real work. The real work to address crime in this community.”

Speaking to the SF Bay Guardian after the meeting, District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney echoed many of Brook’s concerns. “Of course we have deal with poverty and access to education,” she said. “But that isn’t going to stop the bleeding now.” But in the end, McElhaney deferred to Jordan. “It’s about supporting the police chief who says he needs new resources to get the job done,” she said.

African American clergymen Bishop Bob Jackson, Bishop Frank Pincard and Reverend Gregory Payton voiced support for the contract. Jackson, who leads the 7,500-member Acts Full of Gospel Church in East Oakland, lamented a wave of violent crime that claimed more than 130 lives in 2012. “It’s gotten way out of control,” he said. “If Bratton can help stop the bloodshed, then I am for Bratton.”

Yet opponents of the contract expressed concern that Bratton’s support for stop-and-frisk policing would further exacerbate tensions between OPD and the community. “Stop-and-frisk will blow up in our face,” said Adam Blueford, whose teenage son Alan Blueford was fatally shot by Oakland police last May.

This clip was originally posted to Vimeo by Daniel Arauz.

George Holland, president of the Oakland branch of the NAACP, echoed these concerns, saying the NAACP opposes stop-and-frisk because “it invariably leads to racial profiling.”

In a presentation outlining the details of the $250,000 contract, Jordan stated that despite Bratton’s support for stop-and-frisk, there were no plans to implement the controversial tactic in Oakland.  “I do not support stop-and-frisk, I will not condone it, and we will practice constitutional policing,” the police chief assured the crowd.

But the practice, which was deemed unconstitutional earlier this month by a federal court ruling on its use in the Bronx in New York, is central to Bratton’s philosophy on policing. In a recent interview, Bratton told CBS San Francisco, “For any city to say they don’t do ‘stop-and-frisk’…I’m sorry, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about … Any police department in America that tries to function without some form of ‘stop-and-frisk,’ or whatever terminology they use, is doomed to failure. It’s that simple.”