Making the rounds with the city’s power elite has become part of the beat for Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole, reports the Boston Globe. In two tumultuous years in office, O’Toole “has redefined the position radically,” the Globe says. An admirer of the hands-off style of former Governor William F. Weld, she lets deputies decide daily police tactics, choosing instead to serve as the department’s public ambassador and chief saleswoman. Her sunny ministering to the world outside the department has allowed a troubling rift to open between her two powerful deputies, as the city’s homicide rate has skyrocketed and the number of slayings in which a suspect has been identified or an arrest made has plummeted.
Pressure is mounting on the affable commissioner to get results. Having amassed influence and goodwill, the question for O’Toole now is whether she can use that political capital to attract more funding to hire police, diversify elite police units, and tamp down the youth violence besieging Boston. In a two-hour interview, O’Toole said she hopes to reduce violence, solve more slayings, and make her department the envy of the nation. “It’s my job to set the vision, to put the team in place, and to only intervene in day-to-day operations when I develop concerns or see something going awry,” O’Toole said. Interviews with nearly two dozen neighborhood activists, politicians, police officers, and ministers show O’Toole has improved her department’s reputation. Her techniques are simple: She returns phone calls, shows up at community meetings, and makes herself approachable, a style she learned from Mayor Thomas Menino.