OAKLAND -- Famed police chief-turned-consultant William Bratton oozed confidence Wednesday during his first public appearance in Oakland, where he is being counted on to help the city's undermanned police force beat back a surge in violent crime.

"I think this is a very winnable situation here in Oakland," he said during a hastily announced news conference with police leaders at department headquarters. "I think there is a lot of opportunity here to make some early gains very quickly."

Bratton's success achieving major crime reductions while at the helm of police departments in New York City and Los Angeles have made him one of the world's most respected law enforcement experts.

William Bratton , 2009
William Bratton , 2009 (Reed Saxon/AP)

He said Wednesday that crime never once increased on his watch during 20 years of leading police agencies.

Oakland leaders reached out to Bratton last year, eager both for advice and to show residents that they were serious about addressing the city's crime epidemic. The city is paying $250,000 for Bratton and a team of consultants to produce short-term and long-term crime reduction strategies.

The proposals, which won't be released for several months, will have to be reviewed by the city's court-appointed police overseer, Thomas Frazier, a former police commissioner in Baltimore.

Bratton said his team will focus on improving Oakland's use of a crime-mapping and data system he helped pioneer and on devising strategies to reduce burglaries, robberies and homicides, all of which reached recent highs in Oakland last year.


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He also said he would offer advice in helping the department comply with still unmet court-mandated police reforms -- similar those he helped implement in Los Angeles.

Since arriving in Oakland on Sunday, Bratton has accompanied police to a murder scene, observed officers on patrol and met separately with Gov. Jerry Brown, Mayor Jean Quan, and law enforcement officials from several local agencies and the U.S. attorney's office.

He's scheduled to return home to New York City on Friday and return to Oakland several times in the next three months.

Bratton said improving technology and expanding collaboration with outside agencies will be key to reducing crime in Oakland, as will more officers. Oakland's force is down to 611 officers -- the lowest staffing levels in over a decade.

"Quite frankly, I'm always in favor of more cops," he said, noting that the city later this month will graduate its first academy class in more than four years.

The best way to improve the department's low rate of clearing homicide cases, he said, is to reduce crime and thereby reduce caseloads for investigators.

City officials initially planned to make Bratton the face of the crime-fighting campaign given his past successes, which included a 45 percent drop in major crimes during his seven years as Los Angeles police chief. In Oakland last year, major crimes jumped 23 percent, including a 43 percent spike in burglaries.

But Bratton quickly became a lightning rod for police critics, who pointed to his support for giving officers wide latitude to stop and search suspects -- a tactic known as stop-and-frisk.

After opponents twice filled council chambers arguing that more aggressive police tactics would lead to racial profiling against minorities, the city decided to limit Bratton's public profile.

Tuesday's news conference wasn't announced until 46 minutes before it was scheduled to begin, and Bratton wasn't listed as one of the speakers. He is not scheduled to appear at several community forums.

Bratton again defended stop-and-frisk, which he said all police departments do to varying degrees. He said the term should be called "stop, question and frisk," because most police stops end with a question and never result in suspects being searched.

Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan, who joined Bratton at the news conference, said his department strictly prohibits "biased-based" policing and requires that all searches be based on reasonable suspicion.

Bratton noted that Oakland police leaders don't have to accept his crime-fighting advice and that he's hardly the first consultant hired to help Oakland's police force.

"This is a fresh set of eyes looking at an old set of problems," he said. "And hopefully we'll come up with a new set of solutions."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.