- Mayor's Office
That was fast! In the space of about a half hour, the public safety committee of the Seattle City Council unanimously confirmed Seattle police chief nominee Kathleen O'Toole. She'll go before the full council for final approval on June 23.
Worryingly, O'Toole continues to stop short of unambiguously condemning the police officers openly opposed to reforming the SPD. In response to written questions from the council, O'Toole said, "In my experience, most good people buy in and are eager to move forward. There will always be pockets of resistance, but they are eventually marginalized by the good people who want to do their jobs and take pride in their organization...In the end, it’s all about the people. Leadership needs to listen to them, communicate effectively with them and encourage their buy in."
Isn't that the opposite of how an efficient business—O'Toole has repeatedly said she'd like run SPD like one—would operate? If there are employees who aren't on board with the change she's pushing, shouldn't they be penalized in some way?
After her confirmation, I asked O'Toole about the over 100 officers who've filed a lawsuit to block common sense excessive force reforms. "I'm never dismayed when people file lawsuits because we're a litigious society and that's a good thing," she said. "People have the right to voice their opinions. No, I don't hold that against people. But I look forward to speaking with them and others to find out what was behind that and to learn more about it, to be honest."
Mayor Ed Murray, who selected her, has been much harsher in his appraisal of the lawsuit. "They don't want us to follow through on police reform," he said last month. "But this is not the 60s and this not the South."
O'Toole said she hasn't read the suit, but looks forward to doing so. But, I asked, does she think the officers behind it are on the wrong side of reform? "No...I think there's an opportunity to wipe the slate clean at this point and give everybody a chance to be on the side of reform," she responded, "and I hope that all of them will come around."
But obstinate police officers have had plenty of chances to "come around"—the city has been under the consent decree for a few years now—and instead, they've fought reforms every step of the way, with dozens of them filing their latest lawsuit after O'Toole was nominated as chief by the freshman mayor. The sooner O'Toole realizes that, and stops talking about appeasing the worst segments of SPD, the better.