Seattle council OKs city's 1st female police chief

AP News
Posted: Jun 23, 2014 7:35 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — A former leader of Boston's police force was sworn in Monday to run a Seattle department that has been struggling to carry out a reform agreement under federal oversight.

The City Council on Monday approved hiring Kathleen O'Toole as Seattle's new police chief. The one-time Boston police commissioner and former inspector general for Ireland's national police force will be Seattle's first female chief.

O'Toole, 59, takes over a department of about 1,300 officers.

"I want members of Seattle PD to hold your heads high," O'Toole said Monday. "We will succeed in rebuilding public trust."

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 has said her priorities include restoring public trust and department pride, focusing on crime and quality of life in each neighborhood, and running the department like a good business.

Mayor Ed Murray nominated O'Toole for the job in May. Her nomination was confirmed Monday by an 8-1 council vote, with socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant voting no. Sawant said she was worried about O'Toole's vow to run the department like a business, saying businesses aren't accountable to people.

O'Toole 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.