Chief Outlaw leaving Portland for Philadelphia
Police Chief Danielle Outlaw is leaving Portland to take the job of police commissioner for the city of Philadelphia. Deputy Police Chief Jami Resch will be sworn in as her replacement.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said Monday morning, Dec. 30, that the opportunity put Outlaw in a position to lead the fourth-largest police agency in the nation, with more than 6,500 sworn and 800 civilian members.
Outlaw's last day with Portland is Tuesday, Dec. 31. At noon that day, Resch will be sworn in during a private ceremony as Portland's next police chief.
"I'd like to congratulate Chief Outlaw for landing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Wheeler said in a statement. "We thank her for her service to the city of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau, where she helped make a positive difference. She came to Portland exceedingly qualified for the position of police chief, and leaves more prepared than ever for her new position in Philadelphia."
Outlaw will earn $285,000 in her new post, compared to her current salary of $240, 926.40 in Portland, where she oversaw a department one-sixth of Philadelphia's size.
Outlaw's departure comes 26 months after she began in October 2017. In a May 2018 interview with the Portland Tribune, Outlaw shrugged off officers' suspicions that the job would be a brief stepping stone in her career.
"When I got here I asked for a five-year contract," she told the Tribune. "My thing was this: given what I'm being asked to do, it doesn't happen in three years. ... I have stuff to do."
Though tasked with being an ambassador to the public in a way that other chiefs had not, Outlaw prized her privacy, telling reporters to never call her personal number. At times she seemed to visibly chafe at the politics swirling around policing in Portland, as well the scrutiny — and even alleged stalking — that came with her job. In August 2018, she told conservative radio talk show host Lars Larson that protesters' complaints about police crowd control were like whining and complaining after someone lost a fight.
Still, she did more than most chiefs to hear from critics, said Dan Handelman, a volunteer with Portland Copwatch, which has monitored the bureau since 1992. "We just had our sixth meeting with her," he said. "That was an unusual thing about this chief, that she was willing to listen."
Rumors that her departure was imminent persisted throughout her tenure.
"Mayor Wheeler placed his confidence in me to be the police chief after conducting a meticulous selection process," Outlaw said in the written statement. "I am profoundly grateful for his continued support and acknowledgement of how challenging the work of law enforcement can be for all of us. He has been a PPB advocate since day one; championing the Bureau's needs for additional resources and understanding that one can be supportive of police and supportive of police accountability at the same time."
'Brought new ideas to Portland'
During a Philadelphia press conference Monday afternoon introducing Outlaw, Mayor Jim Kenney said he believed the city's nationwide search had "all of that led us to a truly outstanding individual."
"I think this is the right choice," Kenney told reporters.
Philadelphia is the nation's sixth-largest city, with about 1.6 million people. It covers most of Philadelphia County, which has more than 6 million residents. The city's police department has about 7,000 employees, with 6,400 officers covering nearly 142 square miles in 21 districts.
City officials said the search for a new police commissioner included 31 candidates, including 18 people already in the Philadelphia department. About 4,000 citizens offered ideas and opinions to the city on what kind of police commissioner they wanted the city to hire.
Outlaw told reporters that she was "very comfortable with the legacy I left behind in Portland. I got a lot accomplished there." She also thanked Mayor Wheeler and Portland police officers for working with her on difficult issues and in tough situations.
"I brought a lot of new ideas and change to Portland," she told reporters.
Outlaw said she became interested in the Philadelphia position after she was contacted by city officials. Taking the job "was a no-brainer," she said. Her new job pays $285,000 a year.
She told reporters she would "work relentlessly to reduce crime here in Philadelphia." She also talked about being the first African-American woman to hold the commissioner's job.
"I was also a first in Portland, and frankly it was a distraction," Outlaw told reporters. "I've been a black woman all my life. I'm a black woman who chose a life in law enforcement. I do not take lightly that I am a first here. While I appreciate the honor, I want to be very clear that I am one of many. There are many, many people out there like me who just need their moment."
Right person for the job
Wheeler's statement said Outlaw had worked with city government to "build community trust and public confidence in the PPB." Wheeler said she "exceeded all expectations of her as police chief."
"For police chiefs, I don't think there is ever an ideal time to transition on to our next role in life," Outlaw said. "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."
Outlaw said it was "an honor and a privilege to serve as Portland's police chief."
She added, "I will forever be appreciative of my experience here."
Wheeler praised Resch, who he said was chosen after "thoughtful, in-depth discussions."
"Jami Resch meets or exceeds all of the bureau's current leadership needs," Wheeler said. "Having served as the deputy chief of police, I have complete confidence that Chief Resch will excel as our next police chief. She 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 Resch rose through the police bureau ranks for more than 20 years, earning respect from fellow officers and the community. "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," he said.
City Commissioner Jo Anne Hardesty said Monday that she "appreciated the opportunity to work with Danielle Outlaw while she served as Portland's police chief." Hardesty said she also looked forward to working with Resch to improve the police bureau's "culture."
"(Outlaw's) job was not an easy one, but it is a vital one for our city," Hardesty said in a statement. "As an outsider, being asked to change the culture of the Portland Police Bureau required a herculean effort, as well as a support team which I fear she never found. Chief Outlaw came to Portland because she was a visionary leader and I truly wish her well in her next role.
"While I appreciate the work done by Chief Outlaw, the fact remains that chiefs will come and go, but it is the culture they leave behind that matters most to our community. There is still much work to be done to make PPB the organization we need it to be, and I look forward to working with Chief Resch as she takes on this charge."
Reporters Nick Budnick and Kevin Harden contributed to this story.
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