Seattle's new police chief, Kathleen O'Toole

New Seattle Police Chief Announced

by Steve Shay

Following Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's extensive search for a new police chief beginning Jan. 8, it was announced at 10:00 a.m. today, May 19, that former Boston police chief, Kathleen O'Toole will get the post. The first female police commissioner in Boston, she served there from Feb. 2004 to mid-2006.

Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1954, O'Toole lived in Boston since age 18. She graduated from Boston College with a B.A. in 1976 and from New England School of Law with a JD in 1982.

Seattle's new chief was appointed to the Boston Police in 1979 and served in investigative and administrative roles, then as Chief of the Metropolitan District Commission Police, Lieutenant Colonel in the Massachusetts State Police, Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Boston Police Commissioner, or Chief of Police.

She managed 3,000 sworn and civilian personnel and a budget of $235 million annually. She once served in Gov. William Weld’s Cabinet as Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety, overseeing 20 agencies, over 10,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $1 billion.

She left her Boston position to move to Ireland to serve as Chief Inspector of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, an oversight body responsible for bringing reform, best practice and accountability to the 17,000 member Irish national police service.

In her press conference with the Mayor by her side, O'Toole said, "It was an incredibly rigorous process…I've also been a member of selection committees and I've never seen anything like this…but it was done very professionally…I am humbled that I was among both Chief (Robert) Laynar and Chief (Frank) Milstead as finalists, both phenomenal police leaders with great national reputations.

She continued, "I want to mention four themes. One is public trust. We need to work tirelessly to restore public trust…We have to acknowledge mistakes of the past but at the same time I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel and the future is bright. Second, restore department pride…We'll hold people accountable. None of us like rogue cops…At the same time if people make honest mistakes we'll stand by them."

The third and forth themes she mentioned were quality of life in our numerous communities, and finally, violence prevention.
"We need to utilize new technologies…and run it like a business," She said.

"My husband, Dan, is looking foreword to the move to Seattle. He's a retired Boston police detective…He's been my greatest supporter. He originally was one of the people who encouraged me to become a young Boston police officer."

O'Toole was not always popular with Boston's rank and file force, especially when she replaced some of its popular top brass. According to a Feb. 2005 story in a law enforcement website,, O'Toole said, "When I made my first command staff appointments last year, I indicated that I would not hesitate to shuffle the deck throughout my tenure here and I felt it was time to do so...I felt this was a time to infuse some great new blood into the command staff and to realign some other people."

Some in the department saw the changing of the guard as a result of an internal investigation into the high-profile Snelgrove shooting. Police shot and killed 21-year-old Victoria Snelgrove with a crowd control projectile.

A journalism student at Emerson College, she died Oct. 21, 2004. She was hit with a crowd-control round and mortally wounded by a Boston police officer about 90 minutes after the Boston Red Sox's victory over the New York Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series.

The incident occurred near Fenway Park when an FN 303 blunt trauma / pepper spray projectile hit her eye, causing her to bleed excessively. Crowds slowed the ambulance response.

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