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In her own words: the new top cop on how it's going, and Portland's abandonment fears

TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZ - Chief Danielle Outlaw leaves Mayor Ted Wheeler's offices after briefing him on crime response and other plans. Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw made herself available for two interviews. Here are some excerpts, edited for clarity and brevity.

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Tribune: How's it going?

Outlaw: No complaints, but it's been busy. I think some of the bigger challenges have been just managing people's expectations. And given that I have not had the benefit of coming up through the ranks here, my getting-to-know-you time, both internally and externally, has taken a lot longer than I initially thought.

There's been some very long days and I have to learn how to say 'no' better. I think any chief coming in knows that the first six to nine months, it's going to be nonstop. But here in Portland it's a very relational community and people want to know about you, they want to see you, they want to touch, feel you, they want to hear from you. It's very personal, very personable.

Tribune: You say you expected this, but it must be kind of a shock to be living it.

Outlaw: I have been boosted to a completely different level of celebrity than I ever expected. I knew chiefs are visible fixtures in their communities and I knew that would be the same here for me. It's not a bad thing, but literally it's a rare day if I walk from here (at Central Precinct) across the street to City Hall where I'm not stopped (by strangers).

They had to create a way to send in requests for appearances and speaking engagements, because there got to be so many. I was like 'You know, I'm a chief. I didn't come here thinking I was a speaker."

TRIBUNE PHOTO BY JAIME VALDEZTE - Chief Outlaw talks to audience members after addressing Albina Rotary.

Tribune: What are you finding in the bureau?

Outlaw: Folks, they want clear direction. Folks are passionate, folks are very knowledgeable. I'm doing this in kind of small incremental ways, not just big unilateral decisions right off the bat, because I want people to understand why we're doing what we're doing, as opposed to it being like the new person coming in and now we're just throwing stuff at what he or she thinks the problem is.

Tribune: There are people who say that a chief so talented and young won't be here long enough to change the agency's culture, that Portland will be a stepping stone. But even though you have a three-year contract, you don't sound like you want to stay only two or three years, as many Portland chiefs do.

Outlaw: When I got here I asked for a five-year contract. My thing was this: given what I'm being asked to do, it doesn't happen in three years ... I have stuff to do.

What you see is what you get with me. I tell people all the time I leave the politics for the politicians. This generally is about my love of our profession. The PPB family is my new family and I'm going to look out for them in the same way that I look out for my Portland family in the community now. I see myself as a conduit, but also I'm the liaison because I get both worlds.

I tell folks the second we forget that we are here to serve first before we lead, that's when we lose focus of why we're here and what we're trying to do.

It's not just internal. I had just gotten here and I was at Starbucks and I was waiting for my tea. A citizen came up to me and we started having this great conversation about the city and all these things. And he said, "You aren't about to leave, are you?"

I said "No, I'm still waiting for my tea."

And he says, "no — Portland."

I said "What are you talking about? I just got here. I've only been here three months."

When you have a carousel of leadership at the top, it's like a natural human response. ... But at some point I'm like, "look folks, I'm here. Let's move on."


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