Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Monday that Danielle Outlaw has been named Philadelphia’s new police commissioner. She is the first Black woman to serve in this role in the department’s history, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
Outlaw, 43, previously served as the chief of police in Portland, Oregon, for two years, where she was the first Black woman to hold that position, Philadelphia’s Action News reports. She resigned from that position on Friday, issuing the following statement.
“For police chiefs, I don’t think there is ever an ideal time to transition on to our next role in life,” Outlaw said. “However, I am making this transition on good terms, knowing the bureau will be left in the hands of a strong leadership team, led by Chief Jami Resch. And while there will always be work to be done toward improvement, that does not take away from the fact that the members of the Bureau are not only extremely talented, compassionate and professional, they are also resilient and accountable to themselves, each other, and to the community.”
Outlaw will take over a department that has been marred by sexual harassment complaints and racial discrimination. Richard Ross Jr. resigned as Philadelphia’s police commissioner last year, after he allegedly ignored sexual harassment complaints because he’d had an affair with one of the complaining officers.
Mayor Kenney said Outlaw will tackle the issues that plague the department with “conviction.”
“…while I have tremendous respect for our officers, the Philadelphia Police Department needs reform,” Kenney said in a press release. “I am appointing Danielle Outlaw because I am convinced she has the conviction, courage, and compassion needed to bring long-overdue reform to the Department. After meeting and speaking with her at length, I came away confident that Danielle Outlaw possesses the strength, integrity, and empathy vital to the tasks ahead.
“With our support, she will tackle a host of difficult issues, from racism and gender discrimination, to horrid instances of sexual assault on fellow officers. These are issues that too often negatively impact women — especially women of color — within the Department. Commissioner Outlaw will implement reforms with urgency, so that racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination are not tolerated.
“At the same time, she will work relentlessly to combat crime, particularly homicides and other violent crime. This will include a focus on our multi-departmental effort to stem the tide of gun violence that plagues our city.”
Prior to becoming police chief in Portland, Outlaw served for nearly 20 years in the Oakland Police Department, rising through the ranks to become Deputy Chief of Police.
According to Teressa Raiford, a candidate in Portland’s 2020 mayoral election and founder of Don’t Shoot Portland, a grassroots organization dedicated to the liberation of youth, families, and vulnerable community members, Outlaw checks the representation box, but during her time in Portland, she didn’t show up when it counted.
“She was hired because we had protests focused on Black lives,” Raiford told the Portland Mercury. “The city’s response was to say, ‘We have a Black chief of police, so we aren’t racist.’ The representation was important, but she didn’t show up for the Black community.”
According to the Mercury, though Kenney pointed to Outlaw’s work addressing excessive force against people in mental health crisis as a reason for the hire, “2019 saw the highest number (four) of fatal shootings of people in a mental health crisis by PPB officers since 2010.”