Kathleen M. O’Toole was named Boston’s 37th police commissioner yesterday. The Boston Globe says that O’Toole, the first woman to head the Boston Police Department, assumes control of a department rife with labor unrest just six months before the Democratic National Convention in Boston. She promised to raise morale by hearing concerns of union leaders and rank-and-file officers, and vowed to reinvigorate community policing by building stronger ties with neighborhood leaders.
“We need to make sure that this city is protected to the greatest extent possible, whether we’re facing a terrorist threat or we’re organizing a national convention in town,” O’Toole said. Mayor Thomas Menino said he tapped O’Toole because of her depth of experience both inside and outside the Police Department. She worked seven years in the department before leaving in 1986; since then has served as chief of the Metropolitan Police and state secretary of public safety. She also helped set up policing plans in Northern Ireland and worked in the private sector as a public safety and crisis-management consultant.
O’Toole will take over for Acting Commissioner James M. Hussey within 10 days, after she negotiates a contract with the city and divests herself of a financial stake in her consulting firm, O’Toole Associates. Hussey has served as acting commissioner since November, when Paul F. Evans became director of Britain’s Police Standards Unit.
Boston’s police officers and supervisors are working without contracts; negotiations have been stalled for months. O’Toole told the Globe that she would serve as an intermediary between the Menino administration and union leaders to get negotiations on track.
Thomas J. Nee, president of the patrolmen’s association, said he hopes a new era of cooperation can be launched with O’Toole’s appointment. Nee said the union has high expectations for O’Toole based on her record and background, and said her willingness to get more involved in union talks is refreshing.
Captain James M. Claiborne, who is black, was the favorite choice of union leaders and several City Council members. Claiborne and O’Toole were on a list, produced by a search committee, of five finalists that also included Hussey, police Superintendent Robert Dunford of Boston, and Lowell’s police superintendent, Edward F. Davis.