Portland's new police chief, Danielle Outlaw, picked by Mayor Ted Wheeler
Portland's new police chief will be 41-year-old Danielle Outlaw from Oakland, the first African-American woman to hold the post, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Monday.
The pick ends a national search process that put incumbent chief Mike Marshman, who was chosen by former Mayor Charlie Hales, up against three finalists from out of town.
Wheeler, in a statement, portrayed Outlaw as the partner in reform that he's been looking for, saying "I need someone with a passion for this work who will be in it for the long haul ... Danielle Outlaw is that person."
Outlaw has been a deputy chief with the Bay area city since 2013. She began at the Oakland department as a police Explorer, and worked her way up, holding a number of positions along the way. She has cultivated a reputation as a reformer, even as her department has had its share of police scandals in recent years.
"She is thoughtful about police issues, progressively," Oakland lawyer John Burris said in an interview before the selection was made. Burris has sued the Oakland Police Department over some high-profile cases and tracks police accountability issues closely. He said Outlaw hasn't been implicated in the scandals there. Rather, she pushed for better hiring practices, clashing with an "old boys network" there, Burris said. He said Outlaw "has a view of what policing ought to be ... She's ready to be a chief."
A scathing 2012 report on the Oakland police was based in part on observations she shared anonymously with an outside investigator, according to court documents. Among other things, she complained that officer misconduct complaints were overwhelming internal investigators, and continuing unabated: "The sink is overflowing, but we are not turning off the faucet," she said.
The Oakland Police Officers Association did not return calls for comment on Outlaw.
Outlaw holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of San Francisco as well as a master's in business administration from Pepperdine University. She's active in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE, and has been a vocal speaker about police relations with communities of color.
Wheeler had promised a national search while running for mayor, before former Chief Larry O'Dea's administration imploded over an accidental shooting in Harney County. Shortly after being named chief, Marshman's tenure was marred with the news, first reported by the Portland Tribune, that years before he had been investigated for allegedly assaulting a 16-year-old stepson. Wheeler continued with the national search despite Marshman's relative popularity within the bureau.
Picking Outlaw gives Wheeler a potent new ally in quelling what has become a major headache for his administration, the protesters who have disrupted meetings and gone to officials' homes.
Now the largely white Portland protest movement decrying police as the agents of racial injustice will have to do so not only to an African-American police union president, Daryl Turner, but to an African-American chief.
Outlaw's hiring "is going to stop those protests for a bit" and provide a "temporary respite," said Jim Moore, a Pacific University government professor who heads the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation. But, Moore added, any new police controversy "is going to immediately bring those protesters back."
After Wheeler's announcement, Marshman announced his impending retirement from the police bureau.
"I want to thank the members of the Portland Police Bureau for their support and the incredible work they do every day to keep Portland safe. It has been an honor to serve as chief of police and to serve this community throughout my career," Marshman said in a Monday afternoon statement. "I'm confident that the Portland Police Bureau will continue to be a leader in 21st-century policing and the community should rest easy knowing they have one of the best police departments in the country."
The Portland Police Association had urged Wheeler to keep Marshman on, saying he would ensure stability after upheaval stemming from O'Dea's ouster.
On Monday night, Turner, the union president, sent out a statement thanking Marshman for his leadership, saying "He took a ship in troubled waters, in danger of running aground, and turned us back towards the horizon. His leadership stabilized this organization and improved morale."
But Turner added that despite Marshman's removal as chief, his members "will continue to move this organization in a positive direction as we serve the needs of our ever-evolving and diverse community with dedication, equity, and compassion."
A press conference has been scheduled for Thursday to introduce Outlaw, and Wheeler intends for her to start by Oct. 2. She must first pass an Oregon State Police background check expected to take weeks.
Assistant Chief Chris Uehara will serve as interim Portland chief until Outlaw is appointed.