In an interview with the Irish Examiner, the US police chief said it was “important” that she publicly did so following reports last week claiming she was the Government’s choice for the position.
There were also suggestions within the justice system that she might be free to take on the commissioner role based on the belief that her term as Seattle police chief was at a premature end following the sudden resignation last week of Seattle mayor Ed Murray over sex abuse allegations.
Though the tenure of police chiefs in the US tend to depend on the sitting mayor, Ms O’Toole said she had an independent contract until the end of the year. However, she said she was now examining her departure schedule.
Amid fears in oversight bodies last week that the Government was attempting to get the commission to issue an interim report before the next commissioner was appointed, Ms O’Toole rejected claims that there was such pressure.
On whether she was interested in the commissioner’s job, Ms O’Toole said: “No, I think it is important to take myself out of that frame so there won’t be any distraction to our work in the commission. I think it is important to say this.”
Asked why she was not interested, she said: “Because I’ve assumed this role as chair of the commission and made commitments to the Government and fellow commissioners, so my focus is on this. I hope to spend more time in Ireland over the next year.”
The commission is due to report in September 2018 following a demanding review of policing and oversight structures laid out in its terms of reference.
“We have been working quietly behind the scenes and are gaining momentum,” said Ms O’Toole. “People have been given work areas: five or six different issues we have identified. We don’t want to create hundreds of recommendations. The Garda organisation can absorb only so much. We will focus on issues that are transformational.”
Ms O’Toole declined to comment on the circumstances, or consequences, of Nóirín O’Sullivan’s retirement last Sunday week, saying: “I wish Nóirín the best going forward.”
Following that retirement, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan highlighted the possibility of the commission issuing an interim report under its terms of reference.
There were also reports that the minister had requested an interim report from the commission.
When the Irish Examiner asked the Department of Justice this specific question, the department declined to give a direct response. A spokesman said the minister had emphasised in July the importance of the terms allowing for rolling recommendations.
Ms O’Toole said neither she nor the commission has been put under pressure to issue an interim report.
“We have strong lines of communication with the department but there is no political pressure whatsoever,” she said.
She said the commission had made no decision on making an interim report, but indicated it would be discussed at their next meeting this Wednesday and Thursday.
It is not clear what the interim report would focus on, given the call-out for public submissions was only recently issued and runs until the end of January 2018 and lengthy public consultations are only beginning, with one at the Ploughing Championship tomorrow.
She said the commission was meeting department and Garda management this week.
“If there is a sense of urgency [regarding an interim report], certainly we will consider that,” Ms O’Toole said.