A former Boston Police Department commissioner, Kathleen O’Toole, has emerged as a candidate to become Seattle’s next police chief, according to a source with knowledge of the search process.
O’Toole, 59, also has held key positions overseeing police reforms in Ireland and Connecticut. The Seattle Police Department is currently under a court-ordered consent decree with the Department of Justice, requiring reforms to curb excessive force and biased policing.
O’Toole couldn’t be reached for comment today. Asked to confirm whether O’Toole was a candidate, Jeff Reading, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, declined comment.
O’Toole’s name surfaced after The Seattle Times reported that Murray’s 12-member search committee is focusing on a woman and three men, all from out of state, as the top candidates for the job. Murray has said he plans to announce his choice the week of May 19. The names of the other candidates have not been disclosed.
If she gets the job, O’Toole would be Seattle’s first female police chief. “We have never had a woman chief of police at the Seattle Police Department. We have two assistant chiefs who are women and have had a number of female assistant chiefs in the past,” Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said today.
O’Toole, currently the president of a consulting firm in Boston, served as Boston’s police commissioner after rising through the ranks of local and state law enforcement, according to her biography. She held the job from 2004 to 2006, according to the Boston Business Journal.
She previously was the chief inspector of Garda Siochana Inspectorate, an agency that inspects the operations and administration of Ireland’s national police force, from 2006 to 2012, according to a December 2013 story in the Business Journal.
O’Toole also has worked with the police department in East Haven, Conn., assisting it in adopting reforms to comply with a civil-rights settlement with the Department of Justice, according to the Journal story.
Her appointment to that job was announced in a February 2013 news release from the Justice Department, which said she had been selected as the Joint Compliance Expert to assess and report on the implementation of a comprehensive settlement agreement to reform the East Haven department.
The news release described O’Toole as working her way up the ranks of the Boston Police Department and as serving as Massachusetts secretary of public safety. It also noted her work in Ireland, saying she was part of an oversight body responsible for bringing reform, best practice and accountability to the Irish national police.
The East Haven settlement called for reforms to address bias-free policing, including measures to provide mandatory training, collection and analysis of data on police encounters. It also required reforms on use of force; searches and seizures; policies and training; civilian complaints, internal investigations and discipline, including measures to ensure that all allegations of officer misconduct are thoroughly investigated; supervision and management; and community engagement and oversight.
Seattle’s agreement with the Justice Department, forged in 2012, requires similar reforms.