Murray Nominates Boston's First Female Police Commissioner As New SPD Chief

May 19, 2014

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has nominated former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole as new chief of the Seattle Police Department. 

If confirmed by the Seattle City Council, O’Toole would be the department’s first female chief.

Murray has said he wants someone who can “reform and change the culture” on the force and “restore the respect of the community.”

"We can be a national model for urban policing, and Kathleen O'Toole is the right choice to lead us there," Murray said Monday. 

O’Toole, a career police officer, was the first woman to serve as the commissioner of the Boston Police Department, as well as the first woman named to the post of Massachusetts secretary of public safety. She is also a lawyer who spent six years working on an oversight body that brought reform and accountability to the Irish national police service.  

On Monday, she said she was "humbled and excited" by the nomination. 

Kathleen O'Toole, left, walks with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Interim Police Chief Harry Bailey, right, Monday, May 19, 2014.
Credit Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

“Restoring community trust will be the biggest challenge, but we’ll work very, very hard at that," she said. "And I think by getting out there and meeting with people in the communities, and talking to them, and listening to them — I know, mayor, I do tend to talk a bit, but I’m a very good listener, too. And I’ll spend a lot of time listening to the community, and incorporating their feedback into our work.”

U.S. Justice Department investigators found in 2011 that officers too often escalated situations unnecessarily and sometimes used excessive force. Investigators also raised concerns about biased policing.

The other two finalists were police chiefs Robert Lehner of Elk Grove, California and Frank Milstead of Mesa, Arizona. Search committee co-chair Ron Sims said each candidate is a “change agent,” who clears a very high bar set by the mayor.

Seattle police veteran Harry Bailey has been serving as interim chief of the department since January. Bailey replaced Jim Pugel, who had been serving as interim chief since John Diaz vacated the office last year.

Murray thanked Bailey, “who came out of well-earned retirement” for the temporary post. Bailey will remain on the job while O’Toole undergoes the nomination process.