By Gene Johnson Associated Press
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.
If approved by the City Council, she would take over a department of about 1,300 officers that’s been struggling to carry out a reform agreement under federal oversight.
Mayor Ed Murray made the announcement at a City Hall news conference.
O’Toole beat out two other finalists: Elk Grove, California, Police Chief Robert Lehner and Mesa, Arizona, Police Chief Frank Milstead.
“I’ll work tirelessly on behalf of this city to realize your vision, and that’s the Seattle Police Department be the finest police department in this country, second to none,” O’Toole said.
Seattle police have been under scrutiny for years, especially since an officer shot and killed a Native American woodcarver in 2010. In late 2011, the Justice Department found officers were too quick to use force, including using their batons and flashlights, even in situations that could have been defused verbally.
The findings rankled some of the department’s top brass, but several of those figures have since left, and the department has been working to change under a settlement with federal authorities. It has adopted new policies on virtually everything officers do, including stops and detentions, using force, data collection and crisis intervention.
O’Toole laid out her general priorities during Monday’s news conference: restoring public trust and department pride, focusing on crime and quality of life in each neighborhood, and running the department like a good business.
She also said she was encouraged by the amount of support within the community and among police officers and staff for the department to move beyond the federal monitoring.
Seattle U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan offered congratulations.
“Commissioner O’Toole has a reputation for strong, effective and community based policing,” Durkan said in a written statement.
Former Seattle chief John Diaz announced his retirement in April 2013 after a three-year tenure. He was succeeded by two interim chiefs, Jim Pugel and Harry Bailey.
The mayor has asked the council to approve a salary of $250,000 for O’Toole, about $52,000 more than Diaz made.
O’Toole, 59, joined Boston police as a patrol officer in 1979 and worked her way through the ranks. She later held other public safety positions in Massachusetts, including secretary of public safety.
She 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, including helping to monitor whether police in East Haven, Connecticut, are complying with a federal mandate to curtail false arrests, discriminatory policing and excessive force.