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Speculation around Chief O’Toole’s future in Seattle

SPD Chief Kathleen O'Toole started her role in Seattle in 2014. (AP)

Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole is saying that speculation over her future in Seattle is “political theater.”

A flurry of questions floated across social media recently about whether or not O’Toole was leaving her position with the Seattle Police Department as she tends to another role. O’Toole is head of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, an unpaid position.

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O’Toole answered the speculation in a statement to KIRO 7, questioning why her whereabouts would be such a concern to “certain candidates.” She called it political theater at its best.

Former mayor and current mayoral candidate Mike McGinn is among those “certain candidates.” Citing Irish news reports from May, McGinn tweeted questions about whether or not the police chief had accepted a job in Ireland.

An Garda Síochana is the police force for the Republic of Ireland. Other reports have referred to the position as a “part-time gig.”

A May 9 article in The Journal, an Irish news website, announced that O’Toole was selected to lead a commission on future policing in Ireland. But The Journal states “It is understood that O’Toole is finishing up her position in Seattle before taking up the role as head of the Garda root-and-branch review,” and “It is not known if the government is footing the full bill for O’Toole’s relocation costs…”

O’Toole in Ireland

When the story was reported locally, O’Toole said that she was not “walking away” from her job in Seattle. She has since made trips to Ireland and has held public meetings for the commission. It is also reported that she plans to visit police districts around Ireland to discuss policing issues.

O’Toole spoke with Crosscut over the phone from Ireland Tuesday, softly denying that she was making an exit from the Seattle Police Department. But she did say that her “contract coincides with (Mayor Ed Murray’s) contract, and that she had no expectations “beyond Mayor Murray’s tenure.” Murray has declined to run for re-election and will finish out his role as mayor at the end of 2017. The chief told Crosscut that she is “not auditioning for any jobs,” but that she is waiting to see who wins the mayoral primary.

Crosscut also reports that three out of five of O’Toole’s top staff have left the department, or are looking for new jobs. For example, Deputy Chief Carmen Best is under consideration for chief of police in Dallas.

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