New Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s search for a new police chief will be keenly watched throughout the city, but one of the closest observers will be the federal judge set to decide whether the Police Department is in compliance with court-ordered reforms, the Seattle Times reports. The announcement on Monday that Kathleen O’Toole is departing at the end of the year served as a reminder of the important role of the chief. It was O’Toole who in June 2014 took over the department and turned it around as it was still struggling to comply with a federal consent decree, signed in 2012, requiring it to remedy a history of excessive force and biased policing.
After a series of positive report cards, the city is awaiting a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Robart on whether to grant its request to find it in full and effective compliance with the consent decree. If Robart does that, the next step likely would be a two-year period in which the Police Department would have to show the reforms are locked in place, or face further scrutiny. Deputy Chief Carmen Best, who joined the department in 1992, will serve as interim chief beginning Jan. 1. Durkan said she plans a nationwide search for a new chief, to be led by a hand-picked committee headed by four co-chairs. She called the selection of a police chief “one of the most important decisions that a mayor can make.”