(6-4-98) -- Alumni Association Executive Director-designate Kathleen O'Toole will work to reform Northern Ireland's police force as a member of a commission appointed June 3 by Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, Mo Mowlam.
Presently Massachusetts' Public Safety Secretary, O'Toole has been a law enforcement professional for almost 20 years. She is one of eight experts who will propose ways to improve the policing structures and arrangements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, particularly in the area of community relations. The commission was formed as part of the Northern Irish peace settlement, which overwhelmingly passed in a national referendum last month.
"It is with a profound sense of personal and professional honor that I accept this appointment," said O'Toole, a 1976 alumnus who will succeed John Wissler as Alumni Association executive director on June 30. She is one of two Americans on the commission.
"Policing in Northern Ireland will be central to the success of the Good Friday Agreement and the independent commission provides a unique opportunity to ensure peace and justice for all of the people of Northern Ireland," she said. Praising the commitment shown "on all sides" to ending violence, O'Toole said she looked forward "to putting my efforts to the hard work which lies ahead."
The role and future of the RUC has been one of the more contentious issues in the Northern Ireland debate. Critics have said the RUC, which is 93 percent Protestant, does not adequately serve the interests of - and is even hostile to - Ulster's Catholic population. Loyalists and Unionists, however, are concerned that reform efforts will hamper the RUC's ability to maintain law and order.
In April, British Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten to head the commission, which is scheduled to submit its report in the fall of 1999. The proposals will deal with composition, recruitment and training of the police force, but also encompass the social, cultural and community relations aspect of their work.
O'Toole has made three trips to Northern Ireland as the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official, including a visit last fall when she helped advise Belfast officials on establishing domestic violence programs.
Prior to her 1994 appointment as public safety secretary - a post she will relinquish when she becomes Alumni Association executive director - O'Toole was a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police, where she was commanding officer of the State Police Division of Special Operations. She also has served as superintendent of the Metropolitan Police Department.
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