Danielle Outlaw, 44, has been named as the first Black woman to serve as Philadelphia Police Commissioner.
After an extensive four-month search in which 30 candidates were considered, Philadelphia officials chose Outlaw, recognizing her previous experience as Chief of Police in Portland, Oregon, according to The Hill.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney cited the need for department reform, including surrounding sensitive issues such as race, gender and sexual harassment. Mayor Kenney’s concerns were no doubt a result of several controversial scandals involving the department, including the abrupt resignation of former commissioner Richard Ross Jr. after two female police officers filed lawsuits alleging sexual harassment.
“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,” Kenney said.
“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,” he added. “Commissioner Outlaw will implement reforms with urgency, so that racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination are not tolerated.”
Outlaw has a long and impressive history in law enforcement. Prior to serving as the Chief of Police in Portland, she served for nearly 20 years in the Oakland Police Department and rose through the ranks to become Deputy Chief of Police. Outlaw was the second female Deputy Chief in the history of the Oakland Police Department, and in 2015, Outlaw won the 2015 Gary Hayes Award — a national award given to recognize leadership in the police profession.
Outlaw made it clear that while she’s new to the position as well as Philadelphia, she’s familiar with the challenges facing a major city.
“While I am new to Philadelphia, I am not new to the challenges of big-city, 21st century policing. I encountered and dealt with the issues of employee health and wellness, equity, contemporary training, crime, fair and just prosecution, community trust, homelessness, substance abuse, police accountability, and innovation and technology — just to name a few — as I worked various assignments and rose through the ranks in Oakland, California. And I directly addressed these issues while leading the police force in Portland, Oregon,” she said in a statement.
Although Outlaw has been setting milestones in her career, she doesn’t want to be known just because of her firsts, lest some think she hasn’t earned her accolades.
“I think about it all the time. I was also a first in Portland, and quite frankly for a long time, it was a distraction. A lot of people said ‘you got this job because [of that],” Outlaw said.
“I’ve been a Black woman all my life, and I chose the career of law enforcement,” she continued. “So I happen to be a police officer who’s a Black woman. But with that said, I bring a very unique perspective to this role.”
Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby seemed to question the decision but expressed hope, saying “our members were hoping for one of the strong, internal candidates to be elevated to the Commissioner’s office.”
“However, we look forward to a professional, working partnership with Chief Outlaw that includes making our city safer for our residents and our 6,500 police officers, who serve with respect and dedication,” McNesby said.