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May 19, 2014 at 10:02 AM

SPD chief nominee O’Toole weighing her new command staff

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Update at 2:39 p.m.:

Kathleen O’Toole, in an interview after her appointment was announced, said she is considering several people from the outside to serve as a top assistant during a transition period in her first 60 days.

During that period, she said, she will determine who — in and outside the department — to appoint to her command staff, while stressing that she believes in “professional development” and rewarding qualified people in the department.

She also said she plans to live in Seattle. She has asked her daughter, Meghan, 30, to begin the house-hunting.

Kathleen O'Toole is greeted with applause as Mayor Ed Murray introduces her as his choice for Seattle police chief in a news conference Monday at City Hall. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Kathleen O’Toole is greeted with applause as Mayor Ed Murray introduces her as his choice for Seattle police chief in a news conference Monday at City Hall. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Original post:

Former Boston police commissioner Kathleen O’Toole is Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s choice to be Seattle’s next police chief.

If confirmed by the City Council, O’Toole would become the first woman to serve as Seattle’s full-time police chief.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to be appointed to this position,” O’Toole said as she was introduced during a news conference at City Hall.

She said the police department will have to work hard to restore the public’s trust. “We have to acknowledge mistakes of the past,” she said.

O’Toole also said the department needs to restore pride among its members following a series of scandals and problems that led to federal oversight.

“Nobody dislikes rogue cops more than good cops,” O’Toole said. “If people make honest mistakes we’ll stand by them.”

Her nomination was met with enthusiasm by department insiders and police watchdogs alike.

Kathleen Taylor, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington — the group that first called for a federal investigation of the SPD — said O’Toole had forged a good relationship with the ACLU of Massachusetts while commissioner of the Boston Police Department.

Taylor, a member of the Murray’s police-chief search committee, said she found it “pretty exciting to have a woman as chief.” She said she expects O’Toole and Sue Rahr, the retired King County sheriff and director of the state police training academy, to work closely.

Capt. Eric Sano, another search committee member and the head of the SPD’s management union, said O’Toole was his favorite among the finalists.  “She is a strong leader and a good communicator,” he said. “And she’s no-nonsense.”

Moreover, Sano said O’Toole’s “breadth of experience is really incredible,” including her current role as federal monitor of the East Haven, Conn., police department.

O’Toole was named monitor in February 2013. A year later, the DOJ issued a report saying East Haven’s progress toward compliance with a consent degree outlining police reforms was “remarkable.”

City Councilman Bruce Harrell, who chairs the public safety committee, says he hopes the nomination process — which will include at least two public hearings — will be done by the end of June.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan issued congratulations to O’Toole from the Justice Department in a statement that praised her commitment to “strong, effective community-based policing.”

Murray’s decision, considered among the most important he will make, comes at a time when the beleaguered department is under a 2012 federal consent decree requiring it to adopt reforms to curtail excessive policing and biased policing.

O’Toole, 60, served as Boston’s police commissioner from 2004 to 2006, then until 2012 as chief inspector of the Irish national police force following a major corruption scandal. She currently is a consultant.

O’Toole, who describes herself as a “change driver,” started her law enforcement career in 1979, joining the Boston Police Department as a patrol officer. She spent seven years there before holding various public and private jobs in Massachusetts, including the state Secretary of Public Safety and a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police.

In an interview earlier this month with The Seattle Times, O’Toole said, “I have a passion for this stuff. I have a passion for public service and a passion for policing.”

She spoke in particular of the pressing need for Seattle police to abide by the consent decree, saying real cultural change can’t be accomplished by simply checking boxes.

“I think it’s very serious. The consent decree wouldn’t exist unless there were serious issues there,” said O’Toole, who already is familiar with such issues in her current role as the outside expert helping to determine whether police in East Haven, Conn., are complying with a federal mandate to curtail false arrests, discriminatory policing and excessive force.

The three finalists, chosen by the 12-member search committee, also included Robert Lehner, police chief in Elk Grove, Calif.; and Frank Milstead, chief of the Mesa, Ariz., Police Department.

All of the finalists were described as highly respected in their communities, capable of working with people with different racial and cultural backgrounds, and willing to use technology to improve policing.

Milstead, 51, who in Mesa leads a department of 1,200 sworn and civilian employees, previously served for 25 years in the Phoenix Police Department, holding various command positions.

Lehner, 58, the Elk Grove chief, oversees a department of 131 sworn officers and 79 civilian employees in the Sacramento suburb. He previously served as police chief in Eugene, Ore., and once served as assistant chief in Tucson, Ariz.

Comments | More in General news, Government, The Blotter | Topics: Kathleen O'Toole, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle Police Department


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