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Seattle mayor nominates chief to lead embattled police department

Ed Murray addresses the crowd after being sworn in as Mayor of Seattle at City Hall in Seattle, Washington January 6, 2014. REUTERS/David Ry
Ed Murray addresses the crowd after being sworn in as Mayor of Seattle at City Hall in Seattle, Washington January 6, 2014. REUTERS/David Ry

By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has nominated a former Boston police commissioner experienced in reforming troubled law enforcement agencies to lead his city's force, which is under federal monitoring stemming from an alleged pattern of excessive force.

The nomination of Kathleen O'Toole, 60, comes as the Seattle Police Department is working under federal oversight to complete an overhaul of its rules surrounding the use of force and to root out any biased enforcement from within its ranks.

"I am happy to announce that I have selected Kathleen O'Toole as the best candidate to move this city forward and to move public safety forward," Murray told a news conference announcing her nomination from a pool of three finalists.

The Seattle Police Department entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012 to revise its rules on the use of force and to install an independent monitor to oversee the department.

That action was spurred by a federal investigation into the department, which had been involved in a series of incidents in which officers appeared to engage in excessive force, particularly against minorities.

In one high-profile case, officers in 2010 shot and killed an inebriated Native American woodcarver in downtown Seattle, although he appeared to pose no threat.

O'Toole, who served as commissioner of the Boston Police Department from 2004 to 2006 and later worked as the inspector general of Ireland's national police force, the Garda Inspectorate, is currently the federal monitor of another troubled police department, in East Haven, Connecticut.

Her nomination comes as the Seattle Police Department faces criticism over findings in a report it released last week showing a dramatic drop in enforcement of low-level crimes in recent years - a possible sign of tentativeness on a police force beset in recent years by allegations of excessive force.

O'Toole's nomination is expected to come up for a vote in the Seattle City Council next month. Her targeted start date is June 23, the mayor's office said in a statement.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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