In a move that shocked no one, Kathleen O’Toole today was confirmed by the Seattle City Council and sworn in as the Emerald City’s top cop. The former Boston Police Commissioner takes over for (often maligned) interim chief Harry Bailey, and becomes Seattle’s first female police chief of the modern era. The City Council confirmed O’Toole by a vote of 8-1 (Councilmember Kshama Sawant was the lone “no” vote), and moments later she was sworn in (fittingly) in Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall. (Landes - Seattle’s first and only female mayor - named herself acting police chief after firing Chief William B. Severyns in 1924; Severyns was reinstated a short time later.)
Chosen by Mayor Ed Murray back in May, as a nominee O’Toole has largely been celebrated by the members of the City Council that today confirmed her. In recommending her for the job during today’s official proceedings, Councilmember Bruce Harrell called O’Toole “A person of integrity and commitment.” As mentioned, Sawant was the only member of the Council that opposed O’Toole’s confirmation, questioning her ability to rein in Seattle’s police force, along with the $250K salary that comes with the job.
For the most part, however, it was all superlatives and back-slaps.
“I’m looking forward to Chief O’Toole taking over,” Councilmember Sally Clark offered. “She’s demonstrated great leadership and accomplishment in her career leading to this step. I’m impressed with her depth of knowledge and commitment to high caliber policing and safe neighborhoods in Seattle.”
“It is a proud day for Seattle to confirm such a qualified leader, and a woman, as police chief,” added Jean Godden.
Not to be outdone, City Attorney Pete Holmes also got in on the action, issuing a glowing statement shortly after O’Toole was confirmed. “Chief O’Toole’s extensive experience in police reform makes her exceptionally qualified to lead the department at this critical time,” Holmes said. “I look forward to partnering with Chief O’Toole and her command staff as we work through the Department of Justice consent decree and challenging public safety issues. I also look forward to a renewed relationship with the members of the Seattle Police Officers Guild and Seattle Police Management Association -- and, indeed, all sworn and unsworn personnel throughout SPD – as we strive to ensure Seattle’s safety and fulfill our common role as public servants.”
During the swearing in ceremony, Mayor Murray got to business quickly.
“This is a great day for Seattle,” Murray said. “We are excited to start a new chapter, and a new day, for public safety in Seattle.”
“I never imagined six months ago that I’d establish a new home in Seattle. Life is certainly an adventure,” O’Toole said after taking the oath of office. “I’ve fallen in love with the City of Seattle. ... I genuinely appreciate the warm welcome I’ve received.”
In the aftermath of today’s history making confirmation, one thing seems certain: Kathleen O’Toole will have much more difficult days on the job.