OAKLAND -- The City Council brushed aside a second straight week of boisterous protests and approved a contract enlisting one of nation's most highly-touted police chiefs to help Oakland reverse a surge in violent crime.
The 7-1 vote at 2:07 a.m. Wednesday capped four hours of sometimes unruly public input over the inclusion of former NYPD and LAPD Chief William Bratton on a consulting team that will produce a crime reduction plan for California's most violent city.
"The reality is sometimes you need an outside eye," Mayor Jean Quan said in defense of the $250,000 contract.
Councilmember Desley Brooks cast the lone "No" vote.
The consulting contract was one of several measures approved in the wee hours Wednesday to help Oakland's understaffed police department fight crime.
Council members also voted to remove funding restrictions on what will be the city's third police academy in the past year, add 21 civilian staffers so that officers will have more time for crime-fighting, and bring in Alameda County sheriff's deputies to help patrol the city.
Oakland is reeling from a 23 percent jump in violent crime last year as the city's police force shrank to just 613 officers -- the lowest staffing level in over a decade.
Landing Bratton, who is best known for significantly reducing crime while at the helm of the nation's two biggest municipal police departments, initially was seen as a coup for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.
But his repeated support for aggressive police tactics quickly made him a lightening rod in a city where many residents don't trust the police department. Oakland police have been under federal monitoring for a decade in connection with the Riders police brutality scandal.
Several hundred people watched the debate at City Hall both inside the packed council chambers and in several overflow rooms with television feeds. At least 18 police officers worked the meeting.
Bratton critics, many of whom were active with Occupy Oakland, feared he would give the city political cover to implement "stop and frisk" -- a tactic synonymous with granting police more latitude to stop and search potential suspects. They said minority boys and men would be the overwhelming target of such searches.
"Bratton is the father of suppression policing," Oakland resident Jay Donahue said. "He destroys black and brown communities."
Supporters said that stop and frisk isn't on the table and that Oakland needs someone of Bratton's stature and expertise to help a severely undermanned department fight a surging wave of violent crime. They also pointed to the high marks Bratton got from the ACLU in Los Angeles.
Before approving the contract, the council added provisions emphasizing Oakland's opposition to racial profiling.
"The reason why I'm not afraid of a boogeyman called Bratton is that we have tremendous community oversight," Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney said.
The contract is an extension of an earlier deal with Strategic Policy Partnership, a firm headed by Robert Wasserman, who has consulted for police departments across the country. Wasserman convinced city leaders last year to expand the contract and bring in Bratton to help improve the department's data analysis system and work on a crime-reduction plan.
Brooks' opposition stemmed from concerns that the city is re-upping with Wasserman before his initial work has been assessed and that Bratton wouldn't even spend much time in Oakland.
"Each time when crime goes up there is a gimmick that is put forward to make it seem like we are addressing crime in our community," Brooks said. "And we are not. We are further distancing a community from healing."
Bratton critics dominated a council committee meeting last week, often drowning out their opponents with boos and hisses. The showing made council members Dan Kalb and Gibson McElhaney question if Bratton might be too controversial to be the face of the consulting effort, although both ended up supporting him in Wednesday's vote.
To avoid a repeat of last week, council members Pat Kernighan and Libby Schaaf urged supporters to attend the council meeting, which began at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Several ministers also asked parishioners to show up in support of Bratton.
The result was that early on the council chambers were largely filled with Bratton supporters while the overflow rooms held opponents.
The debate began with several ministers urging support for the contract. But as the night wore on, more opponents filled the chambers, and several freely shouted at council members. Three times officers were asked to remove people who wouldn't stop talking.
In once instance, a group of four men saying that they were part of a new generation of the Black Panther Party briefly blocked police from removing a protester. As the men later passed police officers guarding the chambers, they shouted, "Oink, oink, bang, bang."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.