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Menino to name O'Toole as Boston police commissioner

By Theo Emery, Associated Press, 2/8/2004 13:38

BOSTON (AP) Kathleen O'Toole was named Boston police commissioner on Sunday, becoming the first female head of the department.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino made the announcement at a Sunday news conference at city hall.

O'Toole, 49, previously served as director of the state Executive Office of Public Safety. She also vied for the Boston commissioner position 10 years ago, but was beaten out by former commissioner Paul Evans.

''This is my dream job,'' said O'Toole, who started her law enforcement career with the Boston police in 1976.

''I'll work my very hardest to be the best possible police commissioner,'' she said later.

O'Toole, a native of Pittsfield and a Boston resident, most recently led a company she founded, O'Toole Associates, an international consulting firm that provides crisis management, security services and other functions.

She previously served as chief of the Metropolitan Police, and as a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police. The Metropolitan Police department was folded into the state police in 1992 in a consolidation of police services. In 1994, Governor William F. Weld appointed O'Toole the Secretary of Public Safety.

She left public service in 1998 to become head of Boston College's Alumni Association. That same year, she was named to the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland, also known as the Patten Commission, as part of the peace process.

It was that ''global perspective'' that helped sway Menino, who said the decision was one of his most difficult as mayor.

''I know Kathy has the ability to really deal with the issues in our city,'' he said. ''I have great enthusiasm for this appointment.''

Menino tapped O'Toole in 1999 to chair the Boston Fire Review Commission to investigate allegations of mismanagement and bias in the department.

O'Toole takes over from acting commissioner James Hussey, who was appointed on a temporary basis after Evans departed for a job in Great Britain in November.

Hussey was criticized for watching the Super Bowl at home last Sunday while fans lit fires and flipped cars during post-game celebrations. Critics have questioned whether enough police were on duty to deal with the crowds.

One celebrating fan, the son of a state police officer, died when an allegedly drunken driver plowed through a crowd of revelers. O'Toole knows the victim's father.

''I assured (the victim's family) and I assure you that we'll investigate that incident to the greatest extent possible,'' she said.

O'Toole beat out Hussey, Capt. James Claiborne, Superintendent Robert Dunford, and Ed Davis, superintendent of police in Lowell.

Boston City Councilor Charles C. Yancey, while praising O'Toole's appointment, said Menino ''may have missed a wonderful opportunity'' by not appointing Claiborne, who is black and would have been the city's first minority commissioner.

''That would have sent a very clear message to the entire city of Boston, which is majority people of color,'' Yancey said.
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