New Seattle Police leadership: the international connection

Kathleen O'Toole (Photo by city of Seattle.)
Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole (Photo by city of Seattle.)

Chief Kathleen O’Toole’s recent shakeup of the SPD leadership is bringing more international influence to the department.

O’Toole named four new assistant chiefs: Lesley Cordner and Steve Wilske, both already with the Seattle Police Department; Robert Merner from the Boston Police Department’s Investigative Bureau; and Perry Tarrant, a longtime Tuscon Police officer and most recently coordinator of the city of Yakima’s Gang Free Initiative. She also named a new chief information officer, former Amazon vice president Greg Russell. He will head the department’s programs on body cameras, data analysis and other emerging technology.

Along with bringing top leadership from outside the department — a different strategy than Seattle chiefs have taken in the past, according to The Seattle Times — several of O’Toole’s appointments have an international background.

Cordner, who joined the Seattle Police Department since 1989 after working at Boeing and Seattle City Light as a mechanical engineer, grew up in Ireland. Russell, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen last March, grew up in Scotland.

O’Toole herself brings international experience to the SPD. In the early nineties she served on the Patten Commission to reform a Northern Ireland police force that had long been at odds with Catholic citizens. The commission was key in the process of bringing peace to Northern Ireland, after decades of conflict over the question of the region’s separation from the United Kingdom.

After serving as commissioner of the Boston Police Department, O’Toole served for six years as the Chief Inspector of the Garda Inspectorate, an oversight body for the Garda Síochána, which is the national police force of Ireland.

O’Toole, in her statement on Wednesday, pledged to continue working on “restoring public trust, enhancing pride and professionalism in the department, promoting best business practices, and addressing crime and quality of life in our city.”

Merner, Wilske and Tarrant will answer to Deputy Chief Carmen Best. Cordner and Russell will report to Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers.

The new assistant chief appointees replace four outgoing assistant chiefs, Robin Clark, Tag Gleason, Paul McDonagh and Mike Washburn. The four former assistant chiefs will have the option of a demotion or retirement, according to local reports.

O’Toole also announced the creation of a leadership development program within the department.

The Seattle Police Department has seen a number of major changes over the past few years, including the 2014 appointment of O’Toole and recent efforts to comply with a 2012 order by the U.S. Department of Justice to decrease the use of excessive force.

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1 Comment

  1. Really enjoyed this article’s focus on the international connection. O’Toole’s exoerience in Ireland shows she’s held some very difficult jobs.

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