Wow, that’s really hurtful. I don’t know how people can go from being great pals one day, to a message like this overnight. It really saddens me. I’m also disappointed that you invoked Al’s name. I certainly respected his role as an activist and listened carefully to his perspective during many meetings. One on one, he was always extremely nice to me. I was genuinely sad when he passed away and was very honored to attend the memorial event at his home with his wonderful daughters.
As I’ve explained on many occasions, nobody wants to diversify the SPD, including command staff, more than I do. I consider myself an ‘activist,’ too. Throughout my career, I’ve helped draft and implement civil rights legislation, and have worked closely with communities across the USA and Europe to reform police departments. Reform is my passion. In all of these roles, I’ve emphasized the need to have police departments, that reflect the communities served. As Boston Commissioner, I had the most diverse command team ever, including the appointment of the first Asian member. In Seattle, I have also appointed the most diverse command team in the department’s history. We have worked hard to be certain our processes are lawful, fair, and aligned with best practice. Over the past three and a half years, in an effort to get the most diverse and capable applicants, we have advertised locally and nationally on two occasions to fill command positions. In the first instance, we attracted several dozen applicants and only one identified as Asian. (We learned this in retrospect as, under law, the Seattle Department of Human Resources (SDHR) does not provide applicant information related to race during a selection process). Unfortunately, that out-of-state applicant did not meet the minimum specifications for the job. The three-person selection panel included two persons of color, including one who identifies with the API community.
During the second, most recent competition, we also had dozens apply. I believe we had two Asian applicants this time. (Again, I am relying on anecdotal information as demographic data remain with SDHR.) Both were included in the pool of 26 that went before the three-person interview panel. Following the comprehensive review of material for each applicant and the oral interviews, the panel recommended to me three candidates that they unanimously believed were most qualified to serve in command positions. The three panel members (two persons of color and one representative of the LGBT community) are all people of high integrity who share a commitment to fairness and diversity.
As mentioned previously, there have been many promising developments in recent times. I have hired two senior civilian managers who identify with the API community. They’ve both been working directly with me in my office and are making great contributions. Several others in the department have risen to the sworn ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain, and many of them, no doubt, will be very competitive going forward. We have significantly increased the diversity of new hires, with 35 percent in 2017 being non-white, including 9 percent from the API community, and an additional 11 percent identifying as two or more races.
In closing, we’ve had these unfortunate e-mail exchanges from time to time, but I will always count you among the people I respect most in the Seattle community. I know you have a good heart and I’ve appreciated your friendship and support. And no, I’ve never betrayed you. I have to make very difficult, often no-win, decisions in my job, and I just try very hard to do what is right and just. I’m sorry if you think I’ve let you down.
— Kathy O’Toole
Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department