SEATTLE — Kathleen O’Toole was sworn-in Monday as Seattle’s new police chief — the first woman to hold that position in the city.
“Again and again I have been asked whether I chose Kathleen O’Toole because she was a woman,” Mayor Ed Murray said during the ceremony at City Hall. “My response has been no, I chose her because she’s Irish.”
Actually, Murray said, he chose O’Toole because he was impressed with her leadership and experience in the Boston Police Department.
But she faces a number of challenges as she takes over in Seattle.
“We have to restore public trust, we have restore pride in the organization,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of about some of the crime and disorder in the neighborhoods.”
She said one of her first priorities this week is to visit some of the neighborhoods where crime has been an issue. She wants to talk to the people who live and work there, as well as the officers who work those beats.
“I think it’s really important we look at each case and each neighborhood. I’ve committed to developing a policing plan for every neighborhood in the city — not just precinct, but every neighborhood.”
But getting officers on her side won’t be easy. Last month, more than 120 officers filed a lawsuit challenging new use-of-force policies as part of a federally monitored reform program.
“It saddens me that we have to get to a point that people litigate,” she said of the officers’ lawusit. “Certainly they have the right to do that. But I hope we can address these issues head-on and not resort to court cases in the future.”
O’Toole’s confirmation earlier Monday was not unanimous. City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, the lone dissenter in the 8-1 vote, questioned whether O’Toole could bring real change to the department.
“I have not seen sufficient evidence that she would be willing to challenge the status quo of the police and the political establishment,” Sawant said.
O’Toole said she hopes to prove all her doubters wrong.
She will be meeting with command staff Tuesday to begin the transition. She said she hasn’t decided who will be staying in the department or who she might want to bring in from outside. But she said she hopes to have her team in place within the next 30 to 60 days.