Former NYC police commissioner Bill Bratton is an unapologetic advocate of the NYPD's controversial 'stop-and-frisk' policy, which permits police to conduct random pat-downs of those they deem suspicious.
And this week, he was appointed as a consultant to Oakland, California in a 7-1 city council vote, after Oakland Mayor Jean Quan proposed hiring him to help develop a public safety plan in the city that may well include this practice.
Bratton's supporters say he's the father of effective policing policies that have helped reduce crime levels in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City and that his help is desperately needed in Oakland. But his critics say he promotes racial profiling and divides communities along color lines.
"Bratton is the father of suppression policing," Oakland resident Jay Donahue told the Oakland Tribune ."He destroys black and brown communities."
The contentious practice has been labeled discriminatory by some civil rights groups including the NAACP and NYCLU who point out that the overwhelming majority of stops in New York City involve minorities (84 percent in 2011), and 88 percent of stops made last year did not lead to an arrest or a summons.
U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled earlier this month that the practice was unconstitutional due to violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. But, earlier this week, she decided to allow the 'stop and frisk' policy to temporarily resume while "parties present arguments regarding the appropriate scope of a remedy."
Some who have undergone the pat-downs in New York say the practice can be humiliating and unfair. Last year, The Nation published audio of an encounter between New York City Police officers and a Harlem teenager in which the cop uses slurs and threatens the teen with violence. Check out our story on the encounter here.
But, Bratton is an ardent supporter of the policy because he says it's an effective means of reducing crime on the street. Last year, he even compared stop-and-frisk as a solution to crime to "chemotherapy" as a treatment for cancer. In an interview on Thursday with NPR, Bratton hinted that the policy would be an effective crime-fighting tool in Oakland.
"The issues in Oakland -- I've not been there, I will soon be there. But stop-and-frisk is I think an issue that can be addressed in a way in which both sides are mollified. The police need it as a tool. The community just wants to ensure that the tool is not used in an inappropriate way," Brattons said.
Still Bratton acknowledged that the policy is especially contentious in communities of color and maintained that it could be implemented judiciously.
"You have to ensure that it's being done compassionately and always remember you are dealing with human beings," Bratton said. "And you want to ensure that it's done consistently, that you don't apply it separately in a poor neighborhood and a rich neighborhood, you don't interact with blacks differently than you do with whites or Latinos."
Some doubt that 'stop-and-frisk' can be implemented without discriminating against blacks and Latinos. George Holland, the president of the Oakland branch of the NAACP, told the San Francisco Bay Guardian that his organization is skeptical.
"It invariably leads to racial profiling," Holland said.