O'Toole Confirmed As 1st Female Chief Of Seattle Police Department

Jun 23, 2014

The Seattle City Council has confirmed Kathleen O’Toole as the first female chief of the Seattle Police Department.

With an 8-to-1 vote Monday, the council approved Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s nomination. Council member Kshama Sawant cast the lone dissent vote.

O’Toole is taking over a department that has faced years of federal scrutiny over its use of force and others practices, and has been struggling to comply with mandatory reforms. During her remarks Monday, O’Toole told officers to "hold their heads high." 

"There’s a lot to be done, but we will succeed in rebuilding public trust, rebuilding department pride and professionalism, addressing the concerns I’ve heard about — crime and disorder in the different neighborhoods throughout the city — and we’ll also run the police department effectively and efficiently," she said. 

Murray called it a "great day for Seattle." 

"Again and again, I have been asked since I selected Kathleen O'Toole whether I chose her because she’s a woman. And my response has been, 'No, I chose her because she’s Irish,"' Murray said, to laughter from the crowd. "But I want to reiterate again: I didn’t choose her for either of those reasons; I chose her because she’s the best possible person to be the police chief of this city in this time in our history."

O’Toole, a career police officer, was the first woman to serve as the commissioner of the Boston Police Department, as well as the first woman named to the post of Massachusetts secretary of public safety. She is also a lawyer who spent six years working on an oversight body that brought reform and accountability to the Irish national police service.  

Seattle police veteran Harry Bailey has been serving as interim chief of the department since January. Bailey replaced Jim Pugel, who had been serving as interim chief since John Diaz vacated the office last year.