A look back at Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw’s career

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw is trading in the Rose City for the City of Brotherly Love.

Monday afternoon, Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney introduced Outlaw as the city’s new police commissioner.

“I’m convinced she has the conviction, courage, and compassion to bring long-overdue reform to our department. I can tell you after meeting with her and speaking with her at length, I am confident that Danielle possesses the strength, integrity, and empathy vital to the task ahead,” Mayor Kenney said.

Outlaw will head the fourth largest municipal department in the country, overseeing a force of 6,400 officers.

“I am honored by the faith that you are placing in me to lead the Philadelphia police department,” Outlaw said at a press conference in Philadelphia Monday afternoon.

Outlaw is tasked with implementing reforms in the Philadelphia police department, dealing specifically with racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination issues, according to the mayor.

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It is a challenge Outlaw is ready to take on after decades of service. She worked in her hometown of Oakland, California for 20 years, serving as deputy chief in 2013. Outlaw then came to Portland, sworn in as the city’s first black female police chief in 2017.

“I am convinced that trust can be restored here and all across our nation,” Outlaw said Monday.

At the announcement, Outlaw thanked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, the people of Portland, and the members of the Portland Police Bureau.

“It was an absolute honor to serve alongside each and every one of them,” she said.

Outlaw spent just over two years as the city’s police chief, but her tenure came at a time when Portland frequently found itself in the national spotlight.

She guided officers through several large protests, which included accusations of excessive force by officers.

After national attention created an impression of standing back while dueling protestors fought, she cracked down.

In August 2019, she and Mayor Wheeler stood beside community members and activists in a coalition calling for peace ahead of planned protests.

“That, I would say, is my most proud moment in Portland and that was bridging gaps and bringing people together that otherwise would not have sat at the table before,” Outlaw said Monday.

KGW sat down with Outlaw a year into the job on Straight Talk. She talked about the difficulty in trying to find the balance in protecting someone’s right to free speech and preventing violence.

“Here we are in the city of Portland and, unfortunately, the city has become known as, all over the country, as the place to come and settle your differences under the cover of the first amendment of the constitution,” she said on Straight Talk in 2018.

Outlaw spoke again with KGW about the culture of Portland, the bureau’s relationship with ICE, about community outreach and dealing with homelessness.

Among other notable steps, Outlaw took initiative in advising Mayor Wheeler to break up a protest siege of an ICE center in Portland.

We also got to see another side of Chief Outlaw. In November 2019 she took a ride with Brenda Braxton as part of the KGW Carpool series. It was a chance for viewers to get to know the woman aside from the uniform.

During the interview, Outlaw opened up about being the first black woman to serve as Portland’s police chief.

“When I was touted as the first African American female police chief, it means something, right? It absolutely means something, but initially, it can work, or it did work against me. Because now you’ve got people saying – I’ve got the job because I’m an African American female as opposed to my qualifications,” Outlaw said in the November interview. “And the reality is that I had to spend more time showing why, or having to prove why I’m qualified or competent, instead of just coming into the job and doing the job like other folks that don’t look like me get to do all the time. They get the benefit of the doubt. I had never been referred to as a diversity hire in my life until I got here.”

The notion of outlaw being a diversity hire is something Mayor Wheeler addressed when she was sworn in as Portland’s chief on October 2, 2017.

“She was picked, not because she is a woman, not because she is black, but because she was the best candidate for the job,” Wheeler said at her swearing-in ceremony.

Outlaw is breaking barriers again in Philadelphia. She’ll be the first African American woman to serve as commissioner there.

“I do not take lightly the fact that I am a first here. I understand what I represent and who opened the doors for me to be in this position and I understand that it is also my obligation to hold the doors open behind me to ensure that we’re not still in 2020 talking about firsts,” Outlaw said Monday in Philadelphia.

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