Danielle Outlaw has shut the door on her career as Portland's chief of police, just over two years after accepting the job.
On Friday, Outlaw informed Mayor Ted Wheeler that she accepted a job as Philadelphia’s police commissioner. Tuesday is Outlaw's last day of work at the Portland Police Bureau (PPB).
According to the Oregonian, who first reported the news this morning, Outlaw had requested to stay in her position as chief until January 1, but the city rejected that request. Instead, Deputy Chief of Police Jami Resch—who's spent the past 20 years climbing ranks within PPB—will be sworn in during a private ceremony as Portland's next police chief Tuesday afternoon.
“For police chiefs, I don’t think there is ever an ideal time to transition on to our next role in life," said Outlaw in a morning press release. "However, I am making this transition on good terms, knowing the bureau will be left in the hands of a strong leadership team, led by Chief Jami Resch. And while there will always be work to be done toward improvement, that does not take away from the fact that the members of the Bureau are not only extremely talented, compassionate and professional, they are also resilient and accountable to themselves, each other, and to the community."
Outlaw will begin her job in Philadelphia on February 10.
“While I have tremendous respect for our officers, the Philadelphia Police Department needs reform," wrote Kenney in a press statement. "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 mentioned Outlaw's work addressing excessive force against Portlanders experiencing a mental health crisis. Portland is close to meeting all of its requirements set out in a 2012 settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice meant to improve police officers' disproportionately violent interactions with mentally ill Portlanders.
And yet, 2019 saw the highest number (four) of fatal shootings of people in a mental health crisis by PPB officers since 2010. Outlaw has blamed that number on the flaws within Portland's mental health system.
The abrupt transition comes a month before the City of Portland is expected to enter contract negotiations with PPB's rank and file union, the Portland Police Association (PPA). In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, PPA President Daryl Turner said, "You’re getting a damn good chief. We hate to lose her.”
Outlaw's departure doesn't come as a surprise to many Portlanders who suspected the 43-year-old to be using her time in Portland as a mere stepping-stone between her longtime career at Oakland’s police department and a position as police chief in a city larger than Portland.
"I knew it was probably going to be a temporary job for her," says Teressa Raiford, a candidate in Portland's 2020 mayoral election and founder of Don't Shoot Portland. "I said from the start, we got to look to hire a chief that's local. Someone who's invested in this community."
Wheeler appointed Outlaw to be Portland's chief of police in 2017, making her the first African American woman to hold the position, after a rigorous three-month search.
Raiford says she believed Outlaw's hire was an act of propaganda from Wheeler's office.
"She was hired because we had protests focused on black lives," says Raiford, pointing to the national coverage of Portland's Black Lives Matter rallies. "The city's response was to say, 'We have a black chief of police, so we aren't racist.' The representation was important, but she didn't show up for the Black community."
Outlaw will also be the first African American women to be appointed police commissioner in Philadelphia.
Portland Copwatch's Dan Handelman tells the Mercury, "I guess my first reaction is this is both expected and unexpected."
"We didn’t think she was going to last long, since she was coming from outside the city. It's always harder when a chief isn't already part of the community," Handelman says. "But she did seem to be making inroads with the community. So this was a little out of the blue."
The last time Portland hired a police chief from outside the metropolitan area—Mark Kroeker, in 2000—he lasted only three years.
Since joining PPB, Outlaw has advocated for expanding the city's 1,000-member police force. Philadelphia, which is just over twice the size of Portland, has a police force of 6,500—more than six times Portland's size.
In a press statement, Wheeler thanked Outlaw for her work in Portland and shared his confidence in incoming Chief Resch.
"[Resch] has my complete trust and a thorough understanding of my agenda. She is the right person at the right time for the job,” Wheeler said. “...She is well-known, well-respected and trusted bureau-wide, and gives us the internal continuity we must have to keep moving in a positive direction."
You can watch the City of Philadelphia's press conference on Outlaw's hire at noon PST here.
This is a breaking news story. The Mercury will update this post as we learn more about Outlaw's departure.