Philly’s new police commissioner hints at reforms in the department

Danielle Outlaw
Photo credit Kristen Johanson/KYW Newsradio
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After being officially tapped by the mayor on Monday, the city’s new police commissioner has already hinted at how she wants to reshape the Philadelphia Police Department. 

When Danielle Outlaw takes over as commissioner in February, it will take some time before she decides who will be her deputy commissioners.

“I know what I know when I see it. There will be some time before those appointments are made, but at the same time, I have to take a look around and get to know some people,” she said.

First, she wants to understand how the department operates — what is working and what is not working — before she makes major changes.

“It is really important to make sure we embrace a comprehensive approach that goes beyond just enforcing and arresting,” she explained. “It requires a use of human services, community input, as well as the enforcement arm and collaboration working throughout the criminal justice system.”

Outlaw, 43, rose through the ranks in the police department in her native Oakland, California. She became the chief of police in Portland, Oregon, in 2017.

She said her two years in Portland will help her transition to leading Philly’s department.

“It was small, incremental change over time,” she recalled of the Oregon force, “and I wanted to make sure that they not only knew who I was as a person but also when it came time to make tough decisions, they understood why.”

One of Outlaw’s top priorities in law enforcement is to be transparent about what is going on within.

“It’s helpful to not only be transparent — I know that is a buzzword — but it’s helpful to be as communicative as possible, because that doesn’t allow people time to create their own narrative and fill in those gaps when we can just provide that information in the first place,” she said.

Outlaw believes in community policing — and applauded some of the efforts the Philadelphia Police Department has already implemented, like with efforts made tackling gun violence.

“There is messaging, making sure we get ahead of these things ahead of time, and come up with these strategies with communities, as opposed to imposing upon the community,” she said.

Her main goal: Reduce violent crime.

Outlaw joins the force after former Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross resigned in August. He was named in a lawsuit alleging a culture of sexual harassment in the department. Christine Coulter was made the acting commissioner shortly thereafter — the first woman to fill the interim position.

In Philadelphia, Outlaw will be the first woman of color to hold the position of police commissioner.