07 29 2014
  11:52 am  
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Interim Seattle Police Chief Harry Bailey and Mayor Ed Murray with Bostonian Kathleen O'Toole, newly nominated for the top job in the Seattle Police Bureau. If approved she would be the first woman in the position. Susan Fried photos

 

SEATTLE (AP) — 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 has 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, who also served as inspector general of Ireland’s national police force, beat out two other finalists: Elk Grove, Calif., Police Chief Robert Lehner and Mesa, Ariz., Police Chief Frank Milstead.

Former Seattle chief John Diaz announced his retirement in April 2013 after a rocky, three-year tenure. He was succeeded by two interim chiefs, Jim Pugel and Harry Bailey.

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.

In an interview this month, O'Toole told The Seattle Times it was crucial to bring a sense of urgency in reforming the department and that she believed doing so was a top priority for Murray.

‘‘I have a passion for this stuff. I have a passion for public service and a passion for policing,’’ she said.

O'Toole, 59, joined Boston Police as a patrol officer in 1979 and worked her way up through the ranks. She later worked in other public safety positions in Massachusetts, including as the state’s 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.

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