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O’Toole to step down as Seattle Police Chief — UPDATE

O’Toole at Pride (Image: CHS)

After three years on the job, Kathleen O’Toole is stepping down from her post as Seattle’s police chief.

Newly sworn-in Mayor Jenny Durkan will make the announcement Monday morning and outline the process to find O’Toole’s replacement “and continue reform.”

UPDATE: In her announcement of O’Toole’s decision, Durkan outlined the process and “a national search” to find a new chief. “The next police chief must be committed to continuing to build an accountable, diverse police department focused on meaningful and lasting reforms and building trust in the community they serve,” Durkan said Monday. “Our efforts will be developed and implemented with input and leadership from Seattle neighborhoods and communities – including those communities that have the greatest distrust of police and the criminal justice system and who face the bias and institutional racism of our current system.”

Durkan will form a search committee that will “seek community input throughout the process working in partnership with the Community Police Commission as well as other community based organizations.” The committee’s four co-chairs (PDF) include recent interim Mayor Tim Burgess:

  • Jeffery Robinson, serving in his personal capacity, is a deputy legal director and the director of the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality, which houses the organization’s work on criminal justice, racial justice, and reform issues
  • Tim Burgess is the former Mayor of Seattle, former President of the Seattle City Council, and former Seattle police detective
  • Colleen Echohawk is the Executive Director of the Chief Seattle Club
  • Sue Rahr is the Director of Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and former King County Sheriff

The committee will screen candidates based on “input collected through community outreach” before submitting three names to the mayor for a final decision.

The Seattle Times is reporting O’Toole’s decision to step aside was a personal one:

But O’Toole has been mulling her future since May, when former Mayor Ed Murray, who selected her in 2014, announced he wouldn’t seek re-election because of allegations he sexually abused teens decades ago. O’Toole’s husband, Dan, also was rebounding from serious health problems.


In spring of 2014, Mayor Ed Murray named Boston’s police commissioner from 2004 to 2006 and veteran of the Boston Police Department O’Toole as his candidate to become the new Seattle Chief of Police.

O’Toole, 60 at the time, was the first woman to lead Seattle’s police force.

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O’Toole was picked to help guide SPD through the early tumult following a Justice Department consent decree. An eight-month DOJ investigation of Seattle policing released in winter 2011 revealed troubling findings about the department’s use of force. Justice filed a consent decree and negotiated a plan with SPD to overhaul the department. SPD’s overhaul included a DOJ-approved use of force policy. She also faced a rank and file shadowed by the ongoing battle to hammer out  a renewal of the city’s contract with the powerful Seattle Police Officer Guild. The final outcome  of that long fight still looms.

Deputy Chief Carmen Best will serve as interim police chief to start 2018.

The full media advisory announcing the change is below.

Mayor Durkan to Announce Public Safety Officials

Durkan to Announce O’Toole is Stepping Down; Durkan to Appoint Interim Police Chief and Discuss Next Steps to Select Permanent Chief and Continue Reform

 Seattle (Dec 4) – Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan will hold a press conference to announce the public safety officials serving in the Durkan administration.

At the press conference, Durkan will announce that Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole is stepping down as Chief of Police, effective December 31, 2017. Mayor Durkan will announce that Deputy Chief Carmen Best will serve as Interim Police Chief beginning January 1, 2018. Durkan will also outline next steps to select a permanent police chief as well as continue reforms.

In addition, Durkan will announce the continued service of Barb Graff, Director of Emergency Management, and Harold Scoggins, Chief of the Seattle Fire Department.

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4 thoughts on “O’Toole to step down as Seattle Police Chief — UPDATE” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. Darn. O’Toole was the first decent Police Chief that Seattle has had in a long time. Mayor Durkan has a high bar to clear to find someone even better.

  2. I agree that this is unfortunate. But the big question is: Is she “stepping down” voluntarily, or is Mayor Durkan firing her?

    • Well, I think the big question is really who will replace her. Does it really matter of the new Mayor showed her the door? It seems that she has had other interests, such as her work in Ireland. Let’s get a great new chief that can bring our communities together while setting the right tone for the department.