Former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole is appearing before the Seattle City Council’s public-safety committee this afternoon in the first round of confirmation proceedings to consider her nomination as Seattle’s next police chief.
O’Toole said one of the first things she wants to do, if confirmed, is restore community trust. She also wants to spend “lots of time in the community.”
“I think that’s really, really important,” she said.
She said she embraces the mayor’s idea for summer safety events.
O’Toole also said another priority is to restore pride within the department. She noted some members of the department are demoralized but want strong leadership and want to see trust restored.
She also wants to focus on crime and quality-of-life issues. “It’s time to (for police) go out into every neighborhood in the city,” she said. O’Toole said every neighborhood should have its own individual policing plan.
She said the department needs to bring best business practices to policing. It needs to be run as a business, she said.
Former King County Executive Ron Sims, a member of the search committee, opened the meeting by explaining the process by which the committee identified the three finalists for police chief, calling it an “exhaustive” search.
The first speakers during the public comment portion of the hearing urged O’Toole, if confirmed, to address downtown crime. Another said her first priority should be to meet with victims of police brutality, particularly members of the black community.
Leslie Smith, who is working on revitalization in Pioneer Square, which she called “the birthplace of this fair city,” urged O’Toole to provide a “better model of policing.” She offered no specifics.
O’Toole, 60, was nominated May 19 by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who chose her from three finalists.
If confirmed, O’Toole will take command of a beleaguered department that is under a federal consent decree to curtail use of excessive force and biased policing.
Just last week, more than 100 officers filed a federal suit to block new use-of-force policies, claiming the changes endangered them and the public.
When introduced by Murray, O’Toole listed her goals as working to restore public trust; rebuilding pride in a wounded department; improving the quality of life and reducing violence in neighborhoods; and operating the department as an effective and efficient business. She also pledged to push ahead with reforms.
Next Wednesday, O’Toole will appear at a public hearing of the council committee in South Seattle, followed by a committee meeting the next day where a vote will be taken on her confirmation.
On Monday, June 23, the full council will vote on her confirmation.
O’Toole, currently a consultant, served as Boston’s first female police commissioner from 2004 to 2006, then as chief inspector of the Irish national police after a major corruption scandal.
She started her police 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 that of secretary of public safety and lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police.
O’Toole would become Seattle’s first woman to serve as full-time police chief if confirmed.