PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia appointed a new police chief to lead the troubled department that has been plagued by sexual harassment lawsuits and racial discrimination - issues she will be suited to tackle with "conviction," Mayor Jim Kenney said Monday.
Kenney announced his choice of Portland Chief Danielle Outlaw to fill the job, which has been open since August when the last commissioner abruptly resigned amid a scandal.
Outlaw calls the new job a privilege and is vowing to restore the public's trust in the city police department.
Danielle Outlaw, who previously acted as Portland Police Bureau's Chief of Police, has been appointed as Philadelphia Police Department's new commissioner.
Outlaw spent nearly two decades with the police department in Oakland, California, before being named Portland's chief more than two years ago, becoming the first black woman to hold that job.
“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,” Kenney said in a statement. “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 Outlaw will focus on addressing racism and gender discrimination and “horrid instances of sexual assault on fellow officers.”
“These are issues that too often negatively impact women - especially women of color - within the department,” Kenney said.
Richard Ross Jr. resigned as Philadelphia's police commissioner 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. Ross denied that he’d retaliated against her or anyone else, but decided to retire.
About 22% of the city’s 6,500 officers are female, as is more than half of the city’s population of more than 1.5 million people.
Recent lawsuits have accused department brass 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.
In October, a police inspector was charged with sexually assaulting three female officers he had mentored over the years. And, in July, the department pledged to fire more than a dozen officers as part of a national investigation of racist and violent posts made to police social media pages.
“We’re hopeful to see significant changes to the culture in the Philadelphia Police Department,” lawyer Ian Bryson, who filed the sexual harassment and bias lawsuits, said Monday.
- Commissioner Richard Ross resigns after woman alleges affair, retaliation
- Christine Coulter named acting commissioner of Philadelphia Police Department
- 'Hardest thing I’ve ever done’: Former Commissioner Ross speaks after resignation
- 2 female police officers reach agreement with city over feared retaliation
- Philadelphia police inspector facing sex assault charges
Outlaw takes over a department that, like others, was criticized in the 1990s for ignoring sexual assault cases by misclassifying them. The Women’s Law Project, a national advocacy group based in Philadelphia, has worked with the department to review the handling of sex crime cases and improve practices and training since 2000.
“She is clearly someone on an upward trajectory in her career, from Oakland to Portland to Philadelphia. But it’s a huge undertaking,” said Carol Tracy, the group’s executive director. “I think anyone who comes in to Philadelphia from the outside has an upward battle in earning their respect,” Tracy said. “I hope she’ll call on people in the community like us for support.”
Outlaw called her new job, which she'll start on Feb. 10, a privilege and discussed her hopes of reforming the department and the public's perception of it.
“Modern policing is data-driven, but the paramount factor is not so easily quantified: trust - the trust residents have that their police force will keep them safe and treat them with respect,” Outlaw said in a statement released by the mayor's office. “I am convinced that trust can be restored, here and across the nation.”
While in Oakland, Outlaw won the 2015 Gary Hayes Award, a national award given to those who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in law enforcement.
After being Oakland's deputy chief, Outlaw took over a Portland department that has struggled to recruit and retain police officers. She relaxed hiring and grooming standards for the bureau amid a critical staff shortage.
In Portland, Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler brought in Outlaw to bring stability to a department that had experienced a revolving door of leadership, making her the fifth person to in the chief’s job in less than three years.
The Portland department has been criticized for its handling of protests and clashes between right-wing groups who come to the liberal city and the counter-protesters who show up to confront them.
Outlaw has presented on topics like race and policing, women in law enforcement, de-escalation and investigating use of force, building community relations and police accountability.
Outlaw’s TEDx Talk, Humanity in Authority, aimed to explain how law enforcement and humanity can and should co-exist.
Outlaw earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Business Administration from Pepperdine University.
She is also a graduate of the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs’ Association Police Executive Leadership Institute and the FBI National Executive Institute.
Philadelphia's Police Advisory Comission (PAC) welcomed Outlaw in a statement issued Monday.
"Commissioner Outlaw is taking command of the Police Department at a crucial time," PAC officials said. "We believe she has the will and the vision to bring needed change to the department and we look forward to supporting her as she establishes priorities and works to understand the needs of the residents of the city."
Philadelphia's FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby congratulated Outlaw in a statement that acknowledged members were hoping for an internal candidate to be elevated to the comissioner'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.
District Attorney Larry Krasner released the following statement:
“Welcome to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, Police Commissioner Outlaw. As an outsider to Philadelphia, you are well positioned to act during a time of needed reform on the ideals you have expressed. We are hopeful that your deeds will match your words and you will push for justice, because we all know that justice makes us safer.
“You have championed 21st century policing, reconciliation between police and the communities they serve, equal treatment for all, and compassion for those who suffer from mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. I look forward to working with you, Mayor Kenney, and your Department to make criminal justice reform in Philadelphia a reality.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler also extended his congratulations to Outlaw via Twitter.
"Philly is lucky yo have you," Wheeler wrote. "We wish you all the best."
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.