Guest Editorial by Jean Damu
Was Oakland Police Consultant William Bratton involved in the failed Venezuela coup? And if he was, should Oaklanders be concerned?
By Jean Damu
Hundreds of Oakland residents turned out recently to voice their opinions about the city council hiring William Bratton as a $250,000 a year consultant to help bring down an escalating crime rate. They accuse him of instituting “Stop and Frisk,” a program that they say is the blue print for racial profiling. But digging just slightly into Bratton’s background suggests there may be a lot more to be concerned about than Stop and Frisk.
Bratton’s adult life has been spent in law enforcement. After serving in Viet Nam as an Army officer he returned to the US and joined the Boston Police Dept. Later in his career he served as head of the New Transit Agency police then was hired in 1992 by Mayor Rudy Giuliani as Police Commissioner.
By all accounts Bratton was successful in his New York assignments but eventually was fired by Guliani in 1996.
Undaunted, Bratton became a private contractor, set up the Bratton Group to promote his theories of computer oriented policing intelligence gathering called CompStat (computer statistics), worked closely with is contacts in the State Dept. and won two local contracts, one in Brazil and one in Venezuela.
We will return to CompStat below.
Bratton’s Venezuela contract was initiated and conducted through the person of Ivan Simonovis, who in 2002 was the Police Commissioner of Caracas and with whom Bratton worked closely.
Simonivis has had an interesting career.
Previously Simonovis was a Venezuelan law enforcement agent who developed numerous international contacts. He served internships with the NYPD, the German Federal Police and the National Police of France, specializing in terrorism. He attended State Dept. training sessions as well as the FBI Academy at Quantico, Va.
In 2000 Simonovis was named Police Commissioner by Caracas mayor Alfredo Pena. As Commissioner Simonovis was responsible for the coordination of the Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement agencies including Civil Defense and the Fire Dept.
It was in this capacity that Simonovis contracted with Bratton to set up his CompStat system, that would allow Caracas police to identify and respond to trouble spots quickly.
In April of 2002 Bratton was in Caracas busily setting up his computer systems when the US backed coup took place on the eleventh of that month.
Reactionary political forces took President Hugo Chavez into custody for 48 hours. Massive public demonstrations of 200,000 and more rolled from the barrios down the streets of Caracas and Simonovis, with Bratton at his side, order the Metropolitan police to open fire.
Nineteen demonstrators were killed and when Chavez was released by the army and he constitutional government restored Simonovis was immediately arrested and today is housed in a Venezuelan prison.
We don’t know what ensued for Bratton just then but it wouldn’t be stretch to imagine state security gave him 15 minutes to pack and had a taxi waiting to take him to the airport. It would have caused more headaches than it would have been worth to arrest him, as well.
Pena fled to Miami and next we heard of Bratton he was the Chief of Police in Los Angeles implementing ComStat.
The importance of acknowledging Bratton’s presence and likely participation in the Caracas police response to the protesters is to recognize his policing policies are as much about suppressing dissent and social change as they are in any other stated objective.
Alegrity Risk International’s website, a diversified investment company that specializes in intelligence gathering for global corporations and for whom Bratton went to work after his LA gig ended, describes CompStat thus-“CompStat revolutionized policing by employing accurate, real time and relentless follow up to focus the work of police on preventing crimes before they happen.”
Though Bratton doesn’t claim to be the originator of CompStat its apparent design and function of transmitting real time intelligence to police is a progeny of the distant CIA Phoenix assassination program in Viet Nam.
In Viet Nam CIA officers would go to CDEC, the Combined Documentation Exploitation Center, with offices just outside the gates of the massive Ton Son Nhut airbase.
There two elephant sized, now ancient, IBM computers ran 24 hours a day processing queries from combat units and the CIA. The CIA was requesting that thousands upon thousands of captured documents be scanned, as they searched for the names and locations of suspected Viet Cong members. Anyone unlucky enough to have their name appear on a CIA query immediately was a possible assassination target or at the least arrested.
Without a doubt CompStat has military origins just as SWAT teams reflect the Search and Destroy policies of the Viet Nam era army.
But unlike then CompStat is computerized to the degree it can easily interface with drone programs whenever they are adopted by domestic police departments. It is not an exaggeration to imagine that at some point Oakland would begin to look like Pakistan with an occasional wedding party “accidentally” droned.
Unlike Phoenix, SWAT, Search and Destroy, which were pure policing policies, CompStat is plugged directly into the war on terror and contains a profit motive that, in another forum we would discuss as the commodification of terror.
Bratton and his business partners at Altegrity Risk International make no bones about it. They are in it for the money. They look forward to winning numerous policing contracts in Haiti, Afghanistan, Burma and elsewhere in countries referred to as post conflict areas.
It would seem Oakland’s$250,000 contract amounts to little more than a part time job for Bratton. As a true believer in CompStat though it’s understandable he wants to upgrade the war on terrorists in Oakland.
At the January22 city council meeting that ultimately approved the Bratton contract, only District 6 representative Desley Woods had the political integrity and foresight to vote against it.
Apparently sensing Bratton, Stop and Frisk and CompStat are merely desperate gimmicks designed to hide the elephant of economic inequality that confronts society, Woods asked, “Who is going to do the work,” of actually tackling housing, education, healthcare and above all jobs-the real causes of escalating crime.
her no vote was staged to garner undeserved political favor, she knew it would not count as long as everyone else voted yes, she is a lie and can kick rocks too
@ Elightin – Hard to find any solid ground in the land of polytrix — you may be right. But it still felt good to hear her say the right thing. Your contention actually crossed my mind but they tell me if you give a dog a good names you can sometimes trick them into behaving well. Thanks for your insight.
and thank you for the Venezuela connection
OK, I get the police consultants past but, what do yu expect when there are daily terrifying experiences in the streets of Oakland? Regardless of the overall political and/or social reasons for the upsurge in ccrime and violence this type of reaction was inevitable. The coliseum project, in the works for over ten years now, is going to happen as well as the overall gentrification of Black neighborhoods because tourism and hospitality are the money makers for communities in todays global markets and you cannot have this level of crime and decay around billion dollar projects. Reality people is a b-tch. Until WE get a plan to raise the quality of life in our communities this will continue to happen. We are have to work from the ground up not from the top down if this is going to work for the bulk of our community. The talented tenth has got to get to work–outside the box and come up with some innovative ideas and not continue to work on the premise of the “melting pot” theory that does not work unless you have some sort of sustainable economic base. So, get ready for marshal type laws to be enacted to protect those that have a plan and can generate income (tax base) for cities.
@ Karen McCreary I will forward your comment to Mr.Damu for consideration. I personally expect solutions that take the context of problems into consideration when problem solving. Bratton is a dirty band aid not a cure.
Yes, that is true he is a dirty solution but this is how “they” always respond in these situations, it is the only way they know, brute force when it comes to Black people, right? They think it scares us into “doing right” with right being their definition meaning assimulation. I was reading John Ogbu’s involutary minority definition thinking that we as Black people are still fighting to re-gain our culture lost in the passage. Our culture here is alway stolen to make profit for others, re-initialized into the overall culture in America with little if any credit for us. I hope you do not think I am criticizing you, not at all I appreciate the exchange. I just think it is time to think outside the box on how best we can address the real problems in our communities. And, I think the real owness is on us to figure out the best way to address them. These thing like the Bratton situation is meant to keep us angry and frustrated and off the course to solve the real issues, my opinion. So, I keep my focus and hopefully interject into the young, the idea that we have the resources and skills to build something truly remarkable for our present and future. I am trying to honor your work, I think, by working towards that end.
P.S. Good work!!!!