Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole announced Monday she will open the department’s five assistant chief positions to competition beginning in January, a move that could lead to a significant realignment in the top ranks.
Applications will be open to anyone in the department who holds the rank of lieutenant or above, including the current assistant chiefs.
O’Toole will also advertise the assistant chief positions nationally to attract what she described as a robust pool of external candidates.
Her announcement does not affect Deputy Chief Carmen Best, who was appointed by O’Toole after she was named police chief in June.
The move fulfills O’Toole’s commitment to organize a new command team after four to six months on the job.
In that time, she has had the opportunity to evaluate the five current assistant chiefs and provide them an opportunity to show what they are capable of doing.
She also concentrated during that time on filling top civilian positions needed to carry out her pledge to bring best business practices to the department.
The current assistant chiefs are Nick Metz, patrol operations; Robin Clark, criminal investigations; Paul McDonagh, special operations; Tag Gleason, compliance and professional standards; and Mike Washburn, field support such as the 911 call center.
If not offered a position, an assistant chief could be demoted to his or her last civil-service rank of captain or choose to retire.
“I’m very open-minded at this point,” O’Toole said, adding that she will reach out to organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police to advertise for the positions.
She said she also has mentioned potential openings to people at law enforcement conferences and meetings.
Opening assistant chief positions to outsiders has previously generated strong opposition from the Seattle Police Management Association (SPMA), which maintains that it harms career advancement among its members.
“We’re going to arbitration on this,” said Capt. Eric Sano, president of SPMA.