This morning, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole is resigning as of December 31st.
Durkan has appointed Deputy Chief Carmen Best to take over as interim Chief as of January 1st. She will appoint a search committee to lead a national search for a new Chief. Today she named the four co-chairs of the search committee:
- Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director for the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality;
- Tim Burgess, former City Council member and Mayor (and former police officer);
- Colleen Echohawk, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club;
- Sue Rahr, former King County Sheriff and current Executive Director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.
Durkan intends to name the rest of the search committee members over the next two weeks, and hopes to have a new Chief of Police appointed by the spring. She noted that community input will be important to the search process; to that end, she will direct the search committee to hold at least four public input meetings over the course of its work.
O’Toole said that she had decided several months ago that the mayoral transition would be the right time for her to leave her position as Chief, though the election of Mayor Durkan made it “no doubt the most agonizing decision of my career.” She explained that it was a personal decision, not a professional one, noting that her husband had been dealing with health issues earlier in the year. O’Toole came under fire earlier this year for accepting a position on a commission for the Irish government; she said that she will continue to participate in that commission, which she expects to wrap up its work in the next six to eight months.
Deputy Chief Best, who becomes interim Chief in January, said that she fully intends to apply for the permanent position as Chief of Police.
Durkan, O’Toole, and Best all spoke to the importance of the police reform process, noting that in their view the “rank and file” in the department are committed to the reforms underway. Durkan also noted that while she looks forward to signing the documents ending the consent decree oversight of SPD during her term as Mayor, she also fully believes that the reform process is continual and does not end with the consent decree. “We will not go backwards on reform,” Durkan said. “We will continue to go forward.” While serving as US Attorney, Durkan was one of the authors of the consent decree that dictates SPD’s reform process.
Durkan also announced this morning that Seattle Fire Chief Harold Skoggins has agreed to stay on, along with Director of the Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff. Seattle City Light CEO Larry Weis has tendered his resignation, but Seattle Public Utilities Mami Hara has agreed to continue in her position. Both the Chief of Police and Seattle City Light CEO appointments will need to be confirmed by a majority vote of the City Council.