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The Three Finalists For Seattle Police Chief

Three candidates remain in the running to become Seattle’s next police chief.

Search committee co-chair Ron Sims says the short list became shorter by one candidate after the committee gave the four original finalists a written exam, conducted reference and background checks, and did intensive site visits."This was one of the most thorough processes in the history of humankind," Sims joked at a City Hall news conference.

The remaining candidates for Seattle’s next top cop:

Robert Lehner
Chief of Police in Elk Grove, California

  • Leads department of 131 sworn officers and 79 civilian employees in Sacramento suburb
  • Previously took over as police chief in Eugene, Oregon after two officers were fired for, and later convicted of, serial sexual assault

Frank Milstead
Chief of Police in Mesa, Arizona

  • Oversees 1,200 sworn officers and civilian employees
  • Cites an emphasis on "transparency through technology," and recently piloted the use of body cameras on officers to record interactions with the public

Kathleen O’Toole
Former Boston Police Commissioner

  • Appointed as Joint Compliance Expert to help implement a federally mandated police reform consent decree in East Haven, Connecticut
  • Recently oversaw reforms to the Garda Síochána, Ireland, police force

Sims says the finalists represent three different personalities, approaches and kinds of experience.
But he says they are all serious about reform of Seattle’s police department, which has been operating under a U.S. Department of Justice consent decree since 2012, after the DOJ found that Seattle police often used excessive force and were potentially biased against people of color.

"All the candidates said one thing: This is change that will occur," Sims said. "They were very clear that the agreement with the Justice Department requires change. The selection committee itself wanted change. And all these individuals, when we looked at them, were people who were change agents in the departments they were in."

A fourth candidate is no longer under consideration: Patrick Melvin, Chief of Police in Salt River, Arizona.

Seattle Police Officers’ Guild incoming president, Ron Smith, who is also on the search committee, said he’s enthusiastic about all three candidates – and the reforms he thinks they would bring.

Seattle has had two interim chiefs since John Diaz retired from the position last year.

The next step for each finalist is an interview with Mayor Ed Murray.

He’s expected to make his decision within the next few weeks.

Year started with KUOW: 2008