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In this Aug. 6, 2009, file photo Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton speaks in the Hollywood of Los Angeles. Bratton's department developed the program, known as iWATCH, and calls it the 21st century version of Neighborhood Watch. The nation's big city police chiefs are expected to endorse the anti-terrorism community watch program to educate more people than ever about what behavior is truly suspicious and ought to be reported to police. (AP Photo/Philip Scott Andrews, FILE)

In the Jan. 24 edition, Matthew Artz reported that Oakland city leaders reversed their plan to have William Bratton conduct several community meetings with Police Chief Howard Jordan to "engage and seek the community's support in reducing crime."

Instead, Bratton will be "limited to behind the scenes work." Officials changed their mind because a number of Bratton opponents intimidated and shouted down speakers who supported the former NYPD and LAPD police chief at recent city meetings.

Strategic Policy Partnership, the firm with which the city is contracting to consult on police reforms, has stressed that community involvement is an essential part of the evaluation process. Without that involvement, it is doubtful that any plan can be successfully implemented.

Bratton has a proven track record in reducing crime and has valuable strategies to share with Oakland citizens. The mayor and council members should not cower under the threat of disruptive actions. Bratton is no stranger to controversy and is willing to come to community meetings to address citizens' concerns. That is exactly what should happen.

Robert Wasserman, chairman of Strategic Policy Partnership, emphasized that one of Bratton's primary strengths lies in his ability to work well with citizenry. As chief of police in Los Angeles, Bratton won praise for his relations with minority communities. He dramatically reduced claims for police misconduct as well as crime.


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Jordan has stated that Bratton's crime reduction plan will include a review of the city's crime-tracking technology and making recommendations for building trust with residents.

Oaklanders need to be able to ask Bratton tough questions, and if his answers make sense and are accepted, our city can finally begin to move forward in a meaningful, effective way.

If Oakland is ever going to beat crime, it is necessary to overcome the divisiveness that continually thwarts the implementation of a strategic crime-fighting plan.

The way to build consensus is by open debate; behind the scenes work will only fuel the suspicion that the police and city officials are underhanded and cannot be trusted. Maximum transparency during the formulation of city policy is a principle that must be honored, promoted and protected.

The 2006 Harnett report recommended a number of reforms regarding the Oakland Police Department, but it died on the shelf.

This time we all -- residents, community leaders, city officials and elected representatives -- need to be involved in making sure a plan that can succeed gets the exposure it needs to stay alive.

We cannot shrink before a vocal, narrow-minded minority. The council decided Bratton was valuable enough to hire; therefore his work is valuable enough for public discourse.

We commend Councilman Larry Reid for speaking up against "caving into the protesters."

Reid's fellow council members need more spine. Suppressing information is never the right answer. The right answer is to forcibly remove anyone at a public meeting whose behavior disrupts the free speech of others.

Gretchen White is president of the Metropolitan-Greater Oakland Democratic Club.