KATHLEEN OTOOLE And a side of City Council Member Tim Burgess.
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  • KATHLEEN O'TOOLE And a side of City Council Member Tim Burgess.
Kathleen O'Toole, the presumptive next police chief of Seattle, didn't hit anything out of the park last night at a South Seattle public hearing—for example, she didn't declare that SPD's police unions are political enemies to be forced, rather than bargained with, into making much-needed reforms.

But for a progressive city like Seattle, she sounded awfully progressive for a police chief. Her nomination to become chief is expected to be voted out of the city council's public safety committee today at 3:30 p.m.

On neighborhoods: "We'll work hard to implement the [Justice Department] consent decree, but we'll also do it by being at meetings like this...I vow to you that I personally will spend lots of time in the neighborhoods, but I would expect the commanders and my supervisors to do so as well...I tend to spend most of my time in the neighborhoods who need the police the most... And in Boston, that was in the African American neighborhoods." She pledged to develop community policing plans on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, rather than a precinct basis, in roughly her first two months on the job.

On gang affiliated youth: "I'm not a sociologist, but from my personal experience, a lot of young people are disaffected. They don't have the support from home...or school that they need. I haven't met many bad youngsters. I really think we need to provide them with the support as early as possible so they don't turn to gangs. I think prevention and intervention are more important than enforcement."

On SPD's technology deficit: "We need a resource allocation study...I find it ironic that SPD is behind on technology when we're in one of the technology capitals of the world." She has pledged to the council to carry out such a study within her first year.

Council member Kshama Sawant, seated next to her colleagues Sally Clark, Bruce Harrell, Tom Rasmussen and Tim Burgess, asked a litany of tough questions of O'Toole, but did so completely respectfully. Her questions prompted these responses:

On where police officers should live: "I'm definitely living in the city. I'm a city kid at heart." She mentioned that living within Boston was a requirement for her officers there. But, she said, "I know there are some complicated issues...that will have to be negotiated. I know that sometimes it's difficult to...to live and raise a family in the city." However, living in Seattle proper, she affirmed, "really does show a commitment to the city." Roughly 80% of current SPD officers live outside Seattle.

On reform and changing SPD's culture: "Those people who don't want to get on board or do resist, well, we have to hold them accountable. I'm willing to give everybody a chance when we start." As for the unions, she only said she'd interacted with both of the union presidents a few times, so far. "We'll try to maintain strong lines of communication."

On policing protests and acts of civil disobedience: O'Toole said she read in the papers that Seattle police did a better job at this year's May Day than in prior years. In response to Sawant's question on SPD's history of pepper spraying journalists, O'Toole described how she handled protests at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston: "We're going to hide all the people in riot gear in strategic locations where no one will see them, so we don't have to use them unless it's a last resort...we invited the ACLU to work with us on our planning committee." She said there were only six arrests, rather than the thousands that were predicted. According to CNN, Boston spent some $60 million on security for the event.

Want to know more? Here's the nomination packet (PDF) Mayor Murray submitted to the council. O'Toole's resume touts that she launched the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, "one of the nation's first major city fusion centers,"—which, after she left Boston, spied on harmless anti-war activists—and that she is completing her PhD thesis at Dublin's Trinity College.