Danielle Outlaw, who took over this week Philadelphia police commissioner, said her nail polish was among the last things on her mind. While introducing herself, Outlaw said people pointed out that her black nail polish violated the department’s rules on appearance. Outlaw changed the policy to allow for more stylish nails. Outlaw, the first black woman to lead the 6,500-member department, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer said that although the action might seem narrow, it reflects the type of broader change that is needed in policing. “It’s the small things that allow us to feel not only welcome but supported,” she said.
It has been a whirlwind few days for Outlaw, 43, an Oakland native who served on that city’s force for two decades before spending the last two years as the chief of police in Portland, Or. In an interview, Outlaw said minority communities have deeply rooted mistrust of police because the profession was conceived as slave patrols — groups who sought to control the behavior and movements of slaves — and added that “in some places, [police departments] might further that institutionalized and systemic racism that many people have experienced.” She said most cops today “have nothing to do with” the actions of the past, and said they sign up for the job out of a genuine desire to serve.
“The only way, I think, to get beyond [the mistrust] is to allow community to see us,” she said, adding that it required building trust in neighborhoods and “not solely based around enforcement.” Outlaw was hesitant to specify details on potential new methods for combating the city’s ongoing gun violence.