Boston-born Katheen O’Toole, a former city police commissioner, may be the next chief of Northern Ireland’s police force, informed sources tell IrishCentral.com. The job has sometimes been described as the toughest assignment there is in police work.
The appointment of a female Irish American to replace Hugh Orde and head the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) would be a remarkable turn of events at a critical time for the North’s police force, just as the dissident Real IRA threat has once again surfaced
O’Toole is currently the chief inspector of the Garda Inspectorate, which was established to oversee Ireland’s national police force, the Garda Siochana.
She has won praise for her role into the investigations of police wrongdoings. The Morris Tribunal, which examined the issue, said it was "staggered" by the lack of discipline and amount of insubordination in the force.
O’Toole was a key member of the Patten Commission in 1998, which created the Police Service of Northern Ireland – one of the most-critical decisions in the creation of the peace process.
The Patten findings are now studied all over the world as a model of how to police divided communities, and their work has been widely copied in other conflict-resolution regions.
She was originally a British pick for the commission, fueling fears in Irish America that she would not be impartial. However, on the job, she proved one of the most-effective members of the commission and won high praise from all sides.
When she was named to the Patten Commission, O’Toole was the head of the Public Safety Office for the state of Massachusetts. In 2004, O’Toole was named the first female commissioner of the Boston police force, a job she held from 2004 to 2006. In May 2006, O’Toole announced she was quitting the force to take up her new job in Ireland.
She was born in 1954 and grew up in Marblehead, MA. She graduated from Boston College in 1976 and from the New England School of Law in 1982. She is married to retired Boston Police Officer Dan O’Toole, and they have one child, Meghan, who recently received her Masters degree at Galway University.
The PSNI, which replaced the discredited Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), has won general praise in both Catholic and Protestant communities for how they have handled policing. The retiring Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, has played a major role in winning that acceptance.