Category: Archive

Hub commish turns garda

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

After days of speculation, O’Toole confirmed yesterday, her 52nd birthday, that she would be changing jobs. She said that both the Irish government and the mayor of Boston would “give us the necessary time for a sensible transition.”
She added: “When I took this 27 months ago, I said it was my dream job. I’ve never gone home at night regretting my decision.”
The 12,000-member Garda Siochana (“Guardians of the Peace”) has been under the scrutiny of an Irish tribunal in recent years stemming from allegations of mismanagement and corruption. The new post in the police force was created to oversee and review policies and practices.
O’Toole is highly regarded in the U.S. and in Ireland for having served on the Patten Commission in the late 1990s, a body that made specific recommendations for the restructuring of the police force in Northern Ireland.
Media accounts of O’Toole’s interest in the job apparently took Mayor Thomas Menino by surprise when he returned over this past weekend from a trip to Rome. O’Toole reportedly apologized to him on Saturday for not alerting him to the overtures that Irish officials had made to her about the position.
News of O’Toole’s departure comes at a bad time for Menino, whose administration is overseeing one of the most violent periods in the city’s recent history, with a skyrocketing murder rate and escalating crime waves throughout the inner city. In the first week of May, seven people have been murdered. Twenty people have been murdered so far this year, and last year the city had 75 murders, the highest in 10 years.
O’Toole had sought additional police officers to quell the tide of violence, but Menino and other officials had rebuffed her recommendations, creating some strain in the otherwise positive relationship between her and the mayor.
New statistics released Monday by the Boston Police Department reveal that 173 people were shot in the city from Jan. 1 to May 7 of this year, nearly double the number of gunshot victims during the same period last year.
After her stint with the Patten Commission, O’Toole maintained strong connections to Ireland. She and her husband Dan, a retired motorcycle officer from Massachusetts, have been frequent visitors and their daughter Megan is studying film at NUI, Galway
But Boston’s first woman police chief also spent summers visiting family in Roscommon when she was a youngster.
She said was always “incredibly close” to her grandmother, who emigrated to the U.S. as a young woman.
“We used to sit for hours just listening to her stories of Ireland,” she told the Echo in an interview in October.
Though the granddaughter of a policeman, the Pittsfield, Mass.-born O’Toole initially did not aspire to a career in law enforcement. Instead, she studied at the New England School of Law (and was admitted to the bar in 1982). But 27 years ago, interested at looking at law from a different perspective for a while, she applied to join the Boston Police Department.
She started as an undercover subway patrol officer. “Basically my job was to get robbed every day,” O’Toole said. She quickly rose through the ranks of the department and the Metropolitan Police, serving as state secretary of public safety from 1994 to 1998 and finally becoming Boston police commissioner in February 2004. During this time, she also set up her own law firm, O’Toole Associates. In 2004, Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly, named her “Lawyer of the Year.”

Irish Echo staffers contributed to this story.

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