MAYOR Ed Murray’s nominee to be chief of the Seattle Police Department draws rave reviews for her collaborative style, evident skills and broad law-enforcement experience.
Murray introduced Kathleen O’Toole
to Seattle Monday at a City Hall news conference. She said her first order of business would be to restore public trust in the department by communicating with the public and restoring departmental transparency and accountability.
In a city under a federal settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over use of force and biased policing, O’Toole said the top priorities are reducing violence and making neighborhoods safer for all.
Prevention and intervention are as important, or more important, than enforcement, O’Toole said. She would be working closely with the communities facing the biggest challenges.
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O’Toole has spent her career in law enforcement, from patrol work through supervisory ranks and management. Her résumé includes being Massachusetts secretary of public safety, and Boston Police commissioner.
She also served a six-year term as head of an oversight panel for accountability and reform within the Irish national police service. O’Toole also serves as a compliance expert for a DOJ settlement agreement in East Haven, Conn.
City Council member Bruce Harrell, who chairs the council’s public-safety committee, laid out a schedule that could have a final vote on the nomination by the end of June.
O’Toole, also a lawyer, faces extraordinary challenges, with more on the horizon. The department’s antiquated discipline system is designed to stall any kind of serious review or punishment. She raises related topics of training and supervisory expectations.
Overtime pay looms as an issue. She made it clear she expects to run the department like a business on the management side.
O’Toole can expect to butt heads early and often with department unions. She has been through this before. The unions must evolve beyond simply being impediments.
Data-augmented policing and smart use of technology resources are constant themes with the mayor. He has found an ally. Murray needs, wants and expects to receive professional candor from his chief.
O’Toole is taking on a big job, and she deserves to be surrounded by a command staff she knows and trusts. Any attempt to restrict whom she might hire as top officers is nothing more than a symptom of the stagnation the SPD desperately needs to get beyond.
The enthusiasm for O’Toole’s nomination runs deep. Murray had three good choices, and by all appearances he chose well.
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