After the speech, President Obama met with Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole in a private room of the Capitol, where he acknowledged police-reform efforts in Seattle.
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole met with President Obama Tuesday night after his State of the Union address and talked about police reform in Seattle.
In his final State of the Union speech, Obama touched on police and community relations, saying the voices of America include “the protester determined to prove that justice matters” — a likely reference to the Black Lives Matter movement — “and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.”
O’Toole, in a post-speech telephone interview, called Obama’s remark a “brief reference” but one that fit his “theme of mutual respect.”
O’Toole, wearing her dress uniform, sat in the first lady’s box, invited, according to the White House, because of her nationally recognized efforts to improve the Seattle Police Department and to build community ties.
Obama eschewed the long tradition of personally singling out notable guests in the box.
But after the speech, O’Toole said, she met personally with him and Michelle Obama in a private room of the Capitol, where the couple acknowledged the reform efforts occurring in Seattle.
O’Toole said she responded that the work was a “team effort,” involving various parties and the people in her department.
Seattle’s police department has been carrying out a set of reforms since entering into a 2012 consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department to address excessive force and biased policing.
O’Toole, who became chief in 2014, has been credited by the federal monitor overseeing the agreement with moving her department toward compliance.
In her trip to Washington, D.C., O’Toole brought along DeAndre Coulter, a student at the University of Washington and an intern working for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
On Tuesday, the two spent a whirlwind day visiting the White House and the U.S. attorney general.
Coulter was Murray’s choice to join O’Toole after she was invited to sit with Michelle Obama in the House gallery.
Coulter, 22, called it a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience during a telephone interview hours before the speech.
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O’Toole and Coulter went to the Justice Department to meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who in a September visit to Seattle praised the city’s police-reform progress.
Later in the day, Coulter, O’Toole and the chief’s adult daughter, Meghan, got a personal tour of the White House, including the West Wing.
“It was a very unique experience,” Coulter said, adding, “It was a lot to take in, but it was cool.”
He said the visit was his second to the nation’s capitol; as a junior at West Seattle High School, he attended a national conference of young leaders in Washington, D.C.
Coulter is working as a communications intern in Murray’s Office of Economic Development under the mayor’s youth-employment initiative.
A senior at the UW, he plans to graduate this spring with a degree in communications and a minor in diversity, then pursue a career in public relations.
He said he was honored Murray selected him to accompany O’Toole, whom he described as “very friendly,” “outgoing” and “great.”
He credits his mother, who raised him on her own, with teaching him values such as loyalty and trust.
“She always would tell me to be myself,” he said.
Coulter said he also wants to be a role model for his two brothers, who are 15 and 12.
“Nothing is going to be handed to you, I try to explain to them,” he said. “You have to work hard for it.”
During the speech, Coulter watched with Meghan O’Toole from the White House family theater.
Afterward, in a text message, he said he enjoyed the speech, particularly Obama’s comments about academic and prison reform.
The first lady’s seating area has been used for more than three decades to call attention to heroic acts and honor Americans who exemplify themes laid out in the State of the Union address.
Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella also was among the 23 guests seated there. The White House cited Microsoft’s support for computer-science education and expanded parental leave for its full-time employees.