Mayor Murray chooses Kathleen O'Toole for next Seattle police chief

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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SEATTLE - Police Chief Nominee Kathleen O’Toole introduced herself with a promise.

 “I promise you, I promise the police department, I promise the community that I'll work tirelessly on behalf of this city,” she said before a crowd at Seattle City Hall

 The former Police Commissioner of Boston, O’Toole has 35 years in policing. “I've paid my dues and worked as a beat cop, I was a robbery decoy on the subways in Boston,” she said in a one-on-one interview in Mayor Ed Murray’s office.

 O’Toole takes over a police department under a Justice Department consent decree to end the excessive use of force.

 “The consent decree is a good road map,” said O’Toole. She says she wants to “drive a sense of urgency” to meeting its requirements. “We need to drive the substantive change and the cultural change that's necessary to realize the true spirit of the consent decree,” she said.

If confirmed by the City Council, O’Toole will earn $250,000 a year as the first woman leader of the Seattle Police Department.

“She's the real deal. She's the consummate police leader, she’s the person who can help restore the morale of this police department and can help move us further in the 21'st century,” said Seattle Police Officer’s Guild President Ron Smith. Smith revealed that O’Toole was the Guild’s first choice for the job. 

In the interview, she said that winning the public trust needed to fight crime is her top priority.

“Well I think we have to earn public trust and I think to the greatest extent possible it's by getting out, looking people in the eye face to face, listening closely to them,” she said.

 O’Toole says she wants to work with every community to create new neighborhood policing plans. And she’s opened the door to changes in the command structure, saying she’ll take 60-90 days to evaluate the commanders now in place.

In addition to being police commissioner in Boston, O’Toole has served as chief inspector of the Irish National Police force. She has also helped other US cities reform their police departments.

Mayor Ed Murray says it is her experience that made O’Toole stand out among other excellent candidates. He also wanted a chief he could talk to and trust. “The one thing I know that works for us is she's a talker and I'm a talker,” Murray said to laughter, after introducing O’Toole. “Could be an Irish thing, I don't know.”

 Here is a list Seattle police chiefs created by city officials:

•  John T. Jordan – 1869

•  L. V. Wyckoff – 1870-1872

•  F. A. Minick – 1873

•  D. H. Webster – 1874

•  L. V. Wyckoff – 1875

•  R. H. Turnbull – 1876

•  E. A. Thorndyke – 1877

•  F. A. Minick – 1878

•  E. A. Thorndyke – 1879

•  J. H. McGraw – 1880-1881

•  J. H. Woolery – 1882-1883

An 1883 City Charter Amendment abolished the position of marshal and created the new position of chief of police. The chief was elected by city voters for a one-year term.

•  J. H. Woolery – 1884-1886

•  William M. Murphy – 1886-1887

•  J. C. Mitchell – 1888-1889

•  O. D. Butterfield – 1889

•  George C. Monroe – 1890

The Freeholders City Charter of 1890 created a five-member Board of Police Commissioners to oversee police operations. The board, chaired by the mayor, appointed the police chief.

•  Bolton Rogers – 1891-1892

•  Andrew Jackson – 1893

•  D. F. Willard – 1893-1894

•  Bolton Rogers – 1895-1896

The Freeholders City Charter of 1896 abolished the Board of Police Commissioners and gave the mayor authority to appoint and remove the police chief.

•  C. S. Reed – 1897-1900

•  William Meredith – 1901

•  John Sullivan – 1901-1903

•  Thomas R. Delaney – 1904-1905

•  Charles W. Wappenstein – 1906-1907

•  Irving Ward – 1908-1909

•  Charles W. Wappenstein – 1910

•  C. G. Bannick – 1911-1913

•  Austin E. Griffiths – 1914

•  Louis E. Lang – 1915-1916

•  C. F. Beckingham – 1916-1917

•  J. F. Warren – 1918-1919

•  W. H. Searing – 1920-June 1922

•  W. B. Severyns – June 1922-June 1926

•  W. H. Searing – June 1926 – June 1928

•  Louis J. Forbes – June 1928-July 1931

•  William B. Kent – July 1931-May 1932

•  G. H. Comstock – May 1932-June 1932

•  L. L. Norton – June 1932–June 1934

•  George F. Howard – June 1934-July 1934

•  George H. Comstock – July 1934-Dec. 1934

•  Charles Smith – Dec. 1934-Jan. 1935 (Mayor who assumed control of police department)

•  Walter B. Kirtley – Jan. 1935 – April 1936

A 1936 City Charter Amendment allowed the police chief to appointed for a five-year term.

•  William H. Sears – April 1936-June 1941

•  Walter B. Kirtley – June 1941 (Appointed but not confirmed)

•  Harlan S. Callahan – July 1941 (Appointed but not confirmed)

•  Herbert D. Kinsey – July 1941-April 1946

A Freeholders City Charter adopted March 12, 1946 made the police chief term unspecified.

•  George D. Eastman – August 1946-April 1952

•  Frank Ramon – April 1952-Sept. 1952

•  H. James Lawrence – Sept. 1952-Jan. 1961

•  Frank Ramon – Jan. 1961-Nov. 1969

•  W. F. Moore – Nov. 1969-July 1970

•  C. R. Gain – July 1970-August 1970

•  Edward Toothman – August 1970-Sept. 1970

•  George Tielsch – Sept. 1970-March 1974

•  Robert Hanson – March 1974-March 1978

•  H. A. Vanden Wyer – March 1978-Feb. 1979

•  Patrick Fitzsimons – Feb. 1979-Feb. 1994

•  Norm Stamper – Feb. 1994-Jan. 2000

•  Herb Johnson – Feb. 2000-July 2000 (Interim chief; name corrected from city list.)

•  R. Gil Kerlikowske – July 2000-March 2009

•  John Diaz May 2009 - April 2013 (Previous served as interim chief)

•  Jim Pugel –April 2013 - Jan. 2014 (Served as acting chief)

•  Harry Bailey – Jan. 2014 – (Served as acting chief)