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Kathleen O’Toole nominated as Seattle police chief

Kathleen O’Toole served as police commissioner in Boston from 2004 to 2006.
Kathleen O’Toole served as police commissioner in Boston from 2004 to 2006.Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

SEATTLE — Kathleen O’Toole, a onetime Boston police commissioner and former inspector general for Ireland’s national police force, was nominated Monday as Seattle’s first female police chief.

If approved by the City Council, she would take over a department of about 1,300 officers that has been struggling to carry out a reform agreement under federal oversight.

Mayor Ed Murray made the announcement. O’Toole beat out two other finalists: Robert Lehner, police chief of Elk Grove, Calif., and Frank Milstead, chief of Mesa, Ariz.

‘‘I’ll work tirelessly on behalf of this city to realize your vision, and that’s that the Seattle Police Department be the finest police department in this country,’’ O’Toole said.


O’Toole, 59, joined Boston police as a patrol officer in 1979 and worked her way through the ranks. She later held other public safety positions in Massachusetts, including secretary of public safety.

She returned to serve as Boston’s police commissioner from 2004 to 2006 before completing a six-year term as chief of an oversight body responsible for reforms in the Irish national police force.

Seattle police have been under scrutiny for years, especially since an officer shot and killed a Native American woodcarver in 2010. In late 2011, the Justice Department found that officers were too quick to use force even in situations that could have been defused verbally.

The findings rankled some of the department’s top brass, but several of those figures have since left, and the department has been working to change under a settlement with federal authorities.