By Ronnie Cohen
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The city of Oakland hired a prominent national lawman credited with overhauling troubled police departments and helping curb street crime in New York, Los Angeles and Boston to design a plan to quell violence in California's most crime-ridden city.
City leaders voted 7-1 on Wednesday to spend $250,000 to employ William Bratton, who advocates zero-tolerance policing to stop crime and has unapologetically expressed support for a controversial practice known as "stop and frisk."
Bratton's job, approved in a heated nine-hour city council meeting, will be to devise crime-reduction strategies in the city of 400,000 that last year recorded 131 homicides, the highest number since 2006, when 148 were killed.
He brings decades of experience. In Los Angeles, where Bratton was police chief from 2002 to 2009, he helped reduce gang violence and improve strained relations with the community.
At the helm of Boston's police force in the early 1990s, Bratton initiated a neighborhood policing effort to cut violence among young people. As New York police commissioner under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he implemented a crackdown on street crime that ushered in a period of record crime reduction.
Angry community members blasted the move to hire the high-profile lawman, while ministers blessed it.
"All you are doing by your continuous police actions is putting a Band Aid on a gunshot wound," yelled Cat Brooks, a single mother who fears for her children's safety.
"Poverty causes crime. Hunger causes crime... Bratton is not going to solve any of these problems. And I say to you he is not going to end violence in Oakland," she said.
But Reverend Lawrence VanHook, who said he has performed funeral services for three young men shot down in Oakland in 2013, sees Bratton as the city's best hope.
"I'm for him because I know it's going to take some real professionals to navigate how to get these guns off the streets and how to give us a fresh start," VanHook told Reuters.
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