05/10/2006

Boston commissioner resigns to take LE job in Ireland

By MARK PRATT
Associated Press Writer

BOSTON- Boston's police commissioner announced Tuesday that she was resigning to take the newly created job of chief inspector of Ireland's national police force.

Kathleen O'Toole, 52, was the only candidate for the post with the Garda Siochana, Ireland's 12,000-strong but struggling police force. She has spent more than two years as Boston's commissioner.

At a news conference, O'Toole said she received an official offer Tuesday morning. Her nomination was to be presented formally to Prime Minister Bertie Ahern next week.

O'Toole, Boston's first female commissioner, said she expected to assume her new duties around July 1.

O'Toole came to Ireland's attention when she led an international panel to create a reform program for the predominantly Protestant police force in Northern Ireland, a critical plank of the 1998 peace accord.

O'Toole acknowledged challenges during her time in Boston, including the death of a 21-year-old student fatally shot by officers who were using pepper-spray pellet guns to subdue unruly baseball fans in October 2004. In May 2005, the city agreed to a $5 million wrongful death settlement.

The lightly armed Garda Siochana suffers from major shortcomings, including a central computer system that works poorly or not at all.

Officers are provided no secure internal communications and must rely on their own cell phones. More than 8,000 arrest warrants are outstanding, and officers' attempts to prosecute drunken drivers are thrown out on technicalities about 40 percent of the time.

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Associated Press Writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, Ireland, contributed to this report.

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