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Seattle Police Chief Nominee Endorses Hiring Outside Assistants

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Former Boston police commissioner Kathleen O'Toole left, speaks after being introduced by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, right, as his nominee to be Seattle's new Chief of Police, Monday, May 19, 2014, in Seattle.

Confirmation hearings begin today for Kathleen O'Toole, the woman nominated to be the new Seattle police chief. Kathleen O’Toole will appear before the Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee.

One issue stirring controversy among the top brass in the Seattle Police Department is O’Toole’s plan to hire assistants from outside the department.In the business world, you sort of assume a new CEO means a shakeup at the top, that the new boss will bring in his or her own people. But when it comes to the Seattle Police Department, that hasn’t been the case.

For more than 35 years, it was city law that the police chief be required to select senior commanders from inside the force. But that law was changed in January.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said, in order to bolster reform efforts, he would require his new chief to hire at least one aide from the outside. At a news conference in May, Kathleen O’Toole said she would not rule out hiring from within.

”But I also do think it’s important for a chief to have the option to bring in trusted allies from outside,” O'Toole said.

As you might expect, captains and lieutenants within the department aren’t happy that their advancements might be in jeopardy. In early May, the Seattle Police Management Association filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state, saying the captains and lieutenants should have been consulted before the city unilaterally changed the law regarding internal promotions.

But in an initial letter, the state public employment board that oversees such complaints has denied the officers claim, saying that the collective bargaining agreement between the police union and the city "doesn't address the issue of promotion to assistant chief."

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.