Philadelphia Picks First African-American Woman Top Cop

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Danielle Outlaw

Danielle Outlaw. courtesy Essence.

Philadelphia’s new police commissioner is Danielle Outlaw of Portland, Or., the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Outlaw, who has spent the last two years as Portland’s police chief, must deal with what the newspaper calls “the city’s appalling gun violence and building a more trustworthy police force”

She said, “We will be accountable to ourselves, to each other, and to our communities. But to be clear, I cannot do this alone.”

Outlaw, who was born in East Oakland, Ca., has said, “No one was saying they wanted to be a police officer growing up.” Yet that’s exactly what she chose to do while in high school, while the nation was still recovering from the Los Angeles riots after the police beating of Rodney King.

Phiadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney appointed Outlaw on Monday, bringing to an end a secretive, four-month process that attracted 30 candidates. As an outsider, and the first African-American woman to lead the police, Outlaw has already led police, politicians, and stakeholders to speculate about changes she might bring to a department roiled by controversy and scandal, notably the late-summer resignation of Commissioner Richard Ross.

The nearly 20 years Outlaw, 43, spent in Oakland’s police department, and her recent term with the Portland Police Bureau, show her to be a study in contrasts: a cops’ cop who spent little time in patrol; a public figure who prizes privacy; a reformer who has been criticized by progressives.

“The problems are the same. There are just more of them,” former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said of Outlaw’s move to Philadelphia. “She’s no stranger to crime, no stranger to violence, no stranger to keeping police officers motivated. Philly is just bigger.”

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