Kathleen M. O’Toole dedicated herself to community policing, homeland security, and improving officers’ morale, as she was sworn in yesterday as Boston’s 38th police commissioner, the Boston Globe reports. She became the first woman to lead the nation’s oldest police department. She promised that a department known internationally for its success in fighting street crime would not “rest on our laurels.”
Calling herself an “eternal optimist,” O’Toole said she hoped the department would one day boast about officers’ high morale. She is a former Boston police officer, state public safety secretary, and law enforcement consultant.
Observers said her comments were a direct reaction to criticism of predecessor Paul Evans, who resigned last November to take a job in the British government. Some officers said the department has floundered, despite some of the lowest crime totals in the city’s history, because of Evans’s poor relationship with the rank and file and his aides’ unwillingness to listen to innovative ideas from those on the front lines.
Sitting in the front row yesterday was O’Toole’s mentor when she joined the Boston police force in 1979, former commissioner William Bratton, now the police chief of Los Angeles. “I think at this point in time, she’s extremely well suited for the challenges of this organization,” Bratton said. “Her greatest quality is that she is inspirational. People respond to her spirit, her enthusiasm, her creativity.”
O’Toole is the fourth woman in recent months to be named to lead a big city police department; San Francisco, Detroit, and Milwaukee all appointed women.
“She was different, ” said Kathy Gabriel, a Dorchester activist who met O’Toole at a community policing meeting this week. “We have a very tough group, but I felt reassured. She listened to our concerns and seemed to care.”