Why would anyone want to be a Seattle police chief?
So it looks like Seattle is getting a new police chief.
I’ve met Chief Kathleen O’Toole on several occasions and have always been impressed with her. I wish her the best in her future endeavors — especially her consulting job in Ireland.
Side note: How do I get a lucrative consulting gig in a European country?
So what are we talking about here? Her departure got me to thinking — would I want to take that job? Without hesitation, my answer would be a resounding “NO!”
Being police chief in Seattle seems like an impossible task.
First, you have a city council that seems to be at war with the police. Cries for more accountability and for civilian oversight happen on an almost weekly basis. Can you imagine if you work in the tech sector, of having a non-tech person in a “civilian supervisory” role over you? That would be crazy, but that’s what elected officials want for the police.
The council is also in the habit of hiring expensive consultants to issue reports, then promptly ignoring the results. Case in point, the famous report that said the Seattle Police Department is severely understaffed. City officials are fine having an understaffed police department covering the city’s population boom.
Next, the actual job of the police seems to change every day.
Being a cop used to be a relatively straightforward position: Protect and serve. Arrest the bad guys and fill out the paperwork. I know that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but you get my point.
Now, Seattle police officers are called on to do all of the things from before and also they need to be drug counselors, social workers, videographers, mental health professionals, and many other things stacked on top of the original protect and serve edict.
SPD never actually got those new cops they were supposed to. And the ones that are on duty are under a microscope, locally and with the feds.
Having said all that, this city desperately needs a great police chief. In the fastest growing city in America for the second year running, the complexities facing the police are only going to get more difficult, not less.
Every cop I know really wants to make the world a better, safer place. They really do want to protect and serve.
Even though this job sounds like a nightmare to me, it’s one of the most important hires Mayor Jenny Durkan will make.
Make a wise choice for all our sake.
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