Chief O’Toole Tries To “Breathe Some Life Back” Into Seattle Police


Kathleen O'Toole, 60, took over a demoralized Seattle Police Department last year, buffeted by years of bad publicity and budding federal oversight requiring it to adopt reforms to address excessive force and biased policing. With a mandate from Mayor Ed Murray, the man who hired her, to make reform her top priority, O'Toole has spent much of her time seeing that a court-ordered consent decree is carried out while still balancing all the other duties the public expects of the department, says the Seattle Times. The trick, O'Toole said, is to not let the day-to-day demands dominate her time. From her past jobs as Boston's police commissioner and law-enforcement positions in Massachusetts and the Irish national police, she said she knows she must make time to deal with long-term strategy.

It is important not only to meet with community groups, she said, but also to visit the precincts and explain to officers the rationale behind certain decisions and discipline and “why we're taking some of these cases very seriously.” Already, she said, inroads are being made among officers worn down by scrutiny. “I'm trying to … breathe some life back into the place and get people enthusiastic about getting out and doing police work and recognizing good police work,” O'Toole said. Merrick Bobb, the federal monitor overseeing the reforms, has lauded O'Toole for moving the department toward compliance with the 2012 consent decree between the city and the U.S. Justice Department.

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