Danielle Outlaw was sworn in as Portland police chief in a private ceremony on October 2—112 days ago. Today, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) held a "ceremonial" swearing-in event at the Oregon Historical Society.
Outlaw was ceremoniously sworn-in by Carmen Sylvester, a retired Portland cop who, in 1974, was the first Black woman hired by the bureau. Actor Russell Hornsby—who went to high school with Outlaw and apparently portrayed fictional Portland detective "Hank Griffin" in the NBC series Grimm—was the MC.
The main event was Outlaw's 22-minute speech. She focused a lot on civil rights issues, acknowledging Portland's racist history and the distrust between communities of color and the police. You can watch the full ceremonial swearing-in event here, or watch just Outlaw's part speech below:
Here are some highlights of Outlaw's speech:
•She chose the Oregon Historical Society because of its "Racing to Change" exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement in Oregon. "I was very intentional in the selection of this place," she said. She wanted to "address the elephant in the room."
•Outlaw brought up the 2017 Time article "How the U.S. Got Its Police Force," highlighting the portion mentioning how, in the South, police forces were created for the "preservation of the slavery system." Outlaw said "This isn't about Black history, or Portland's history, this is our history."
•She also highlighted the 2016 story in The Atlantic: "The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in America." She referenced that in the 1920s, a picture in the paper showed the police chief, sheriff, district attorney, U.S. attorney, and mayor posing with Klansmen. She said racism still lurks "in the undercurrent of a very progressive city."
Note: In May, during the city's search for a new police chief, the Portland Police Association union was upset that the job posting acknowledged historical and system racism in Portland, writing: "the verbiage and the tenor of the job posting left many in the rank and file angry and confused, as the clear implication from the posting is that the Police Bureau and its members have supported a racist culture in the City."
•"What does any of this, you might be asking, have to do with the police in the united states, the Portland Police Bureau, or Chief Danielle Outlaw? There's no argument that law enforcement agencies are responsible for upholding the law and maintaining public order.... We cannot effectively address crime reduction and prevention, community engagement and inclusion, or organizational excellence through and equity and inclusion lens if we ignore our history.... Seeking to understand our history is not divisive, nor is it an act of race-baiting, as I've heard it before. Nor is it meant to be accusatory. It serves as a starting point for transformation and positive progression. How can we begin the healing process without first acknowledging what it was...".
•She said the Black Lives Matter and "Say Her Name" movements "didn't arise out of nowhere. Along the same vein, however, neither did the hashtags #BlueLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter." She urged people to "seek to listen to or understand the perspectives of those who differ from ourselves."
•She acknowledged distrust between minority communities and police, and "systemic" problems in Portland like homelessness and mental health issues.
•"As your new chief of police, you will see me implementing several strategies that promote positive interactions between the police and our communities in order to build trust and legitimacy. We will continue to utilize technology and social media to reduce crime and enhance public trust. And I will ensure solid policy and oversight exists to safeguard accountability and transparency. Additional training, at all levels, to include the prioritization of de-escalation. To ensure every Portland Police Bureau employee is performing at their optimum level. Lastly, an intentional focus on officer safety and wellness is paramount to achieve our goals. True community policing is a philosophy that will be interwoven into the fabric of the Portland Police Bureau."
•Despite only being here since October, "I say with confidence that the Portland Police Bureau is moving in a positive direction." She highlighted data-based decision making, protests and demonstrations "with little-to-no incidents," and the effort to strengthen training.
•Outlaw, hired at 41, called out people who were apparantly questioning her ability to be police chief at such a young age: "I wonder if anyone else asked Mark Zuckerberg about his age when he founded Facebook?"
Note: Mark Zuckerberg's young age when he started Facebook has been discussed. A lot. The origin story of Zuckerberg starting Facebook as a college sophomore is mentioned in nearly every profile of him ("in February 2004, when Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he started a Web service from his dorm," wrote Time when they named him Person of the Year in 2010, for example).
•Outlaw was upset with the wording of a Mercury headline from October ("Danielle Outlaw Wants a Helper"). The story was about how she wanted to reorganize the structure of the bureau, creating a new "deputy chief" position (what we called a "helper") for day-to-day operations, so she can "focus on the strategic goals of the organization." She implied using the term "helper" to describe the new position was sexist and she said that she views herself as the "CEO" of the PPB, saying "I wonder if the deputy chief of my male counterparts in major cities throughout this country are referred to as helpers, rather than the true number two in any CEO or COO relationship?"
•"Together, we can continue to raise the bar and set the standard of policing as we contribute to this noble profession on national and global levels."
•She thanked her family. She thanked Mayor Ted Wheeler, who hired her, for "entrusting me to be a part of your vision. I see it. I get it. Together, we will get there."
•Her closing remarks: "Think about your role in ensuring success as a community. What is it? What does it look like? Because I can't do this by myself, I won't do it by myself. I've accepted my role, and I'm hear for the long haul. As you all know, we get more accomplished working together than against one another. You have my word that I will carry out my duties the best of my ability each and every day, and it will be done with grace, with mercy, with kindness, with compassion, with courage, with honor, and integrity..."