Danielle Outlaw, an Oakland native and 19-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, has been hired to serve as the first Black woman to lead Philadelphia’s police department.
Her hiring as the police commissioner was officially announced Monday at a press conference with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who introduced her to the public, ending a four-month interview process that drew 31 applicants, including 15 insiders.
“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,” Mayor Kenney said in a statement. “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.”
“The problems are the same. There are just more of them,” former Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said of Outlaw’s hiring. “She’s no stranger to crime, no stranger to violence, no stranger to keeping police officers motivated. Philly is just bigger.”
Born in East Oakland, Outlaw, 43, has two children. She joined OPD in 1998 after graduating from the University of San Francisco.
Two years ago. she moved to Portland, Oregon to become the first Black police chief of that city.
“We will be accountable to ourselves, to each other, and to our communities. But to be clear, I cannot do this alone,” said Outlaw, quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer
Outlaw pledged to be a “conduit” between the community and police and to address the racist and sexist tensions dividing the force.
“If I have to be the conduit, I’ll be the conduit,” she said.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who got to know Outlaw while working to bring OPD in compliance with the federal court decree mandating police reforms, told the Inquirer that she always supported efforts to bring the department into compliance with the court-ordered reforms.
“She’s always had a good view of progressive policing, but she also has respect for the rights of the police,” Burris said. “I saw her as someone who was very balanced, someone who recognized the importance of acting in the best interests of the community as well as law enforcement.”
Recent lawsuits have accused department commanders of ignoring complaints that female officers were being sexually harassed by colleagues and supervisors and making it difficult for them to keep nursing when they return from maternity leave.
Former Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. resigned last summer after a lawsuit alleged that he ignored sexual harassment complaints because he’d once had an affair with one of the complaining officers. He denied that he had retaliated against anyone.