The Oakland Police Department has become so infamous for racist police practices that even the federal government was forced to show concern. The OPD narrowly escaped federal receivership in December after city officials agreed to relinquish oversight of the department to a court-appointed compliance director. However, one of the first major decisions made by the OPD and Oakland city officials under this new “oversight” was to seek the consultation of William Bratton, a figure synonymous with the racist police policy of “Stop and Frisk.”
The compliance director would ensure that the OPD was following the reforms intended to dissuade racist police misconduct it had been ordered to make over a decade ago. If the reforms were not made, the compliance director would have the power to, with a judge’s consent, fire the police chief. This did not dissuade Chief Howard Jordan, City Administrator Deana Santana, or Mayor Jean Quan from lining up behind the idea of paying Bratton a quarter of a million dollars of the people’s tax money for “crime fighting advice.”
Bratton’s racist, imperialist history
Bratton has a long history as an agent of imperialism and police repression. He was a U.S. officer in the war against the Vietnamese people, then a cop in Boston, rising to the head of the department in 1992. In 1994, he became Commissioner of the New York Police Department. It was in New York that Bratton became infamous as an exponent of stop and-frisk policies, which permit cops to stop and pat-down people for no other reason than “looking suspicious” to the officers. “Stop and Frisk” is clearly little more than institutionalized racial profiling. In 2011, 84 percent of those “frisked” in New York were Black or Latino, and only 12 percent of all the stops made led to any kind of arrest or discipline.
Last year, Bratton outrageously compared stop-and-frisk to chemotherapy, saying, “Applied in the right way, in the right moderation, [chemotherapy and radiation] will cure most cancers. [Stop-and-frisk] is an intrusive power…but applied in the right way, it can have the effect of reducing crime.” Disgustingly, Bratton is comparing people who are driven to crime by poverty to a “cancer.” Given the direct relationship between stop-and-frisk and racial profiling, Bratton’s statement has racist overtones.
While in New York, Bratton also championed a system of data crunching and computer oriented police surveillance that came to be known as CompStat. CompStat supposedly used data to map high-crime “trouble spots.” Critics point out that these “trouble spots” are almost always areas with large African-American and Latino populations. CompStat data show that poor people oppressed under capitalism are driven to petty crime to survive; this correlation is then used as an excuse to more heavily occupy oppressed neighborhoods with police who, under Bratton, have a green light to harass the population. Bratton has since brought stop-and-frisk to Los Angeles as that city’s Chief of Police. In 2010, he was named chairman of Alegrity Risk International, an investment company that specializes in intelligence gathering for global corporations; in other words, surveilling individuals and organizations for profit and in the service of the capitalist class. Alegrity was drawn to Bratton because of his knowledge of CompStat.
On January 15 and 22, hundreds of Oaklanders, organized by groups such as the ANSWER Coalition, the Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition, El Pueblo, Occupy Oakland and CopWatch, filled City Hall to stop the City Council from approving Bratton’s contract. Inside, over a hundred people lined up to speak about Bratton’s hiring on both nights. On January 15, only three of the speakers were Bratton proponents, and all of them were residents of the affluent Oakland Hills neighborhood. The City Council allowed all three pro-Bratton speakers to go over the three minutes officially allotted to each speaker while cutting off all the anti-Bratton speakers right after three minutes. On Jan 22, the Council waited until 3 AM to wait out the anti-Bratton masses to approve the contract 7-1, ignoring the unified voice of the majority.
Since being hired as a “consultant,” Bratton has already suggested he will implement “Stop and Frisk” in Oakland. In an interview on Jan. 24, Bratton said, “Stop and frisk is the racial profiling issue, if you will, of the twenty-first century… 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.”
Role in anti-Chavez coup?
If that was not bad enough, the day after City Council hired Bratton, Jean Damu reported in the San Francisco Bayview newspaper that Bratton had been in Venezuela in April of 2002, advising Caracas police commissioner Ivan Simonovis on the implementation of CompStat. On April 11, 2002, the comprador capitalist elements in Venezuela attempted a coup against President Hugo Chavez. Hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters poured into the streets to defend the Bolivarian Revolution. Simonovis, who was being advised by Bratton at the time, ordered the police to fire on the demonstrators, killing 19 innocent people. After Chavez was restored to power by the Venezuelan army, Simonovis was arrested and remains in jail. Bratton promptly vanished from Venezuela.
In October, Howard Jordan was forced to discipline 44 of his officers for their brutality against Occupy protesters. It is terrifying to think what kind of “advice” Bratton would have given the OPD concerning Occupy. So much for “oversight” of the Oakland police! Under capitalism, the mega-profits of a tiny clique of bankers are society’s highest priority. Capitalism is an inherently unjust and undemocratic system that survives through duplicity and oppression. Professional oppressors like Bratton will always be rewarded by such a society.