Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw looks back on first year on the job

Next week will mark one year since Danielle Outlaw took over as the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department – the nation's fourth-largest police department.

The Oakland, California native became the first African American woman to hold the post as Philadelphia's top law enforcement officer on Feb. 10, 2020. 

In the year since her arrival from Portland, Oregon the city has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic and a spring and summer highlighted by civil unrest.

The department's response to unrest in May and June has prompted calls for her resignation over the use of tear gas in a number of encounters with demonstrators.

On Good Day Philadelphia Thursday morning, Commissioner Outlaw reiterated that she has no intentions of resigning. Last week, she added that Mayor Jim Kenney had not asked her to resign.

"That happened in the summer, several months ago. Almost in real-time, there were a lot of lessons learned," Outlaw said. "We adapted, we adjusted, we were introspective and we implemented necessary changes. I think we've seen that what occurred over the summer hasn't happened again. I think one of the biggest things we need to take away from this is that we adapted and we were willing to acknowledge where there were missteps."

2020 was also one of the most violent years in the city's history with 499 homicides and 2,246 shooting victims. 196 of those victims were under the age of 18.

So far in 2021, the city has reported 51 homicides as of 11:59 p.m. Feb. 3, which is a 34% increase from the same time last year.

To avoid another abnormally violent year, Outlaw says the city will have to do more on the 'prevention side.'

"We've got to pay attention to themes and patterns," she said. "What 2020 showed us is that there are a lot of commonalities as it related to social media, social media beef. We saw an increase in our domestic violence-related incidents of violent crime or homicides. And then we also saw that a lot of the shootings and homicides were driven by narcotics."

Moving forward, Outlaw says the department is doing what it can to bolster its social media efforts with detectives and analysts. The department will also be partnering with community groups and the Office of Violence Prevention to get ahead of domestic violence incidents and reprioritize those incidents internally.

"Each one is a gut punch," Outlaw said of the city's homicides.

She added that while each one takes a toll, it also provides motivation to get ahead of the violence, especially when the victim is a member of a vulnerable population.

"I think we have to be willing, not just a handful of us, we have to be willing to acknowledge that we have to come at this from a different angle. We can't arrest our way out of it. And if we start fixing some of the issues that are leading to this violence, some of this mentality, the need for conflict resolution in schools, and all of the things we need to address when folks are at much younger ages – if we actually fully embrace that, maybe somewhere down the road we start to put a dent in this," Outlaw added. 

When asked to sum up the year in one word, Outlaw joked that she was on a 'family-friendly' show before choosing 'unanticipated.'



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