Next Seattle Police Chief: Kathleen O'Toole



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Posted on May 19, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 20 at 1:15 PM

SEATTLE -- Kathleen O'Toole, a one-time Boston police commissioner and former inspector general for Ireland's national police force, was nominated Monday as Seattle's first female police chief.

In a one-on-one interview with KING 5, O'Toole vowed to restore public trust and department pride and to run SPD like an efficient business. She said she plans to spend a lot of time out in the precincts and wants officers to know they have her support, but that she won't tolerate misconduct.

If approved by the City Council, O'Toole would take over a department of about 1,300 officers that has been struggling to carry out a reform agreement under federal oversight.

MORE: Community cautiously optimistic about new SPD chief

Mayor Ed Murray made the announcement at a City Hall news conference. O'Toole was greeted with loud applause as she entered the room at the mayor's side.  O'Toole beat out two other finalists: Elk Grove, California, Police Chief Robert Lehner and Mesa, Arizona, Police Chief Frank Milstead.

Former Seattle Police Chief John Diaz announced his retirement in April 2013 after a rocky, three-year term.  He was succeeded by two interim chiefs: Jim Pugel and Harry Bailey. Bailey will continue to run the department until O'Toole's nomination is approved by the Seattle City Council. 

O'Toole's target start date is June 23.  The mayor has proposed that she be paid $250,000 a year which he said is reasonable given the "serious issues" facing SPD. Murray also noted that the salary is slightly below what the new police chief in Oakland, California is being paid.

In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice found that Seattle police officers were routinely using excessive force and often escalated situations unnecessarily.  Investigators also raised concerns about biased policing.  The City of Seattle entered into a court monitored settlement agreement to fix these and other problems. 

MORE: Full KING 5 interview with Seattle's new police chief Kathleen O'Toole

In an interview last week, O'Toole told KING 5 "I believe we should put a great deal of urgency in the reform process and it's clear to me that the mayor is considering this his top priority for the police department."

"I'm definitely a change driver, not a maintenance manager.  The bigger the challenge the better," she said," she said.

O'Toole, 60, joined Boston Police as a patrol officer in 1979 and worked her way up through the ranks. She later worked in other public safety positions in Massachusetts, including as the state's secretary of public safety.

O'Toole returned to serve as Boston's police commissioner from 2004 to 2006 before completing a six year term as chief of an oversight body responsible for reforms in the Irish national police force.

She has since focused on consulting work, and is currently serving as a monitor to ensure that police in East Haven, Connecticut are complying with a federal mandate to curtail false arrests, discriminatory policing and excessive force.