SEATTLE - Concerns of excessive force have long cast a shadow over the Seattle Police Department. On Friday, members of Mayor Ed Murray’s search committee announced they are convinced; any of the three finalists just chosen for the job will be the reformer the SPD needs.
The finalists are: Robert Lehner, the chief of police for the city of Elk Grove, California; Frank Milstead, chief of police, city of Mesa, Arizona; and Kathleen O'Toole, former police commissioner, for the city of Boston.
At a City Hall announcement, search committee co-chair Pramila Jayapal said all three candidates promised to embrace the current Department of Justice oversight: “We really looked for candidates who saw a challenge as an opportunity.”
Dozens applied for the job, which was pared down to the final three with a unanimous vote just minutes before Friday's announcement.
Search committee co-chair Ron Sims said he and the others selected to find a chief looked for the candidates' thorns as well as the roses. “Everybody can improve a little bit, that kind of thorns,” Sims said. “Nothing in their character, nothing in their professionalism would distract from their selection in any way.”
Yet KIRO 7 found that Frank Milstead was accused of sexism. In March of 2013, Milstead fired a female assistant chief for hacking into the Mesa Police Department's email. The case was settled out of court two months later. A member of the search committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told KIRO 7 that the allegations didn’t concern the committee and did not disqualify Milstead from the Seattle job.
Meanwhile, the president of the Seattle Police Union believes the rank and file will welcome any of the three finalists named. “I am confident that any one of these three would bring the necessary leadership to help reinvigorate the line officers,” Ron Smith told KIRO 7 after the announcement on Friday. He believes Lehner, Milstead or O’Toole could “get the morale out of the toilet and get us back to where we need to be.”
Mayor Murray will now interview the candidates and make his selection for chief, to be announced the week of May 19.
The Seattle City Council members will then vote.