PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After an extensive search, Mayor Jim Kenney has announced the next police commissioner of Philadelphia. Police Chief Danielle Outlaw, of Portland, Oregon, has been named the new top cop in Philadelphia.
Outlaw is making history as Philadelphia’s first African-American woman to lead the city’s police department. The 43-year-old acknowledged that distinction Monday at City Hall, but she also talked about how she will handle several policies in her new role.
“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,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “With our support, she will tackle a host of difficult issues, from racism and gender discrimination to horrid instances of sexual assault on fellow officers. These are issues that too often negatively impact women — especially women of color — within the Department.”
Outlaw made her first appearance inside Philadelphia City Hall Monday, excited to accept a new job as the city’s next police commissioner.
“I’m honored in the faith you have in me to lead the Philadelphia Police Department,” she said.
For nearly two decades, Outlaw served in the Oakland Police Department in California. Most recently, she was the police chief in Portland, Oregon for roughly two years.
During Outlaw’s leadership, Portland’s homicide rate fell, but it was also only a fraction of Philadelphia’s more than 350 homicides from 2019. How will she handle the homicide rate in Philly?
“Making sure we get out ahead of time and come up with a strategy with community, instead of imposing upon the community,” Outlaw said.
Outlaw was also asked how she thinks policing substance abuse should be handled.
“I do not believe that first responders should be the ones dealing with these issues because they’re not crimes,” she replied.
And regarding the city’s possible safe injection site, Outlaw said, “we all know that something has to be done.”
Outlaw is a mother of two and Philly’s first African-American woman police commissioner. It’s a distinction she won’t let define her.
“I do not take lightly that I am a first here. I understand what I represent, I understand who opened the doors for me and I understand it’s my obligation to hold the doors open behind me to ensure that we’re not in 2020 still talking about firsts,” Outlaw said.
Outlaw begins the job as Philadelphia’s police commissioner in February.
Community leaders and local officials reacted to the news Monday, including Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who was been very vocal when it comes to social justice reform in Philadelphia.
…leadership in Philadelphia and the appointment of the first black woman to serve as police chief in Philly. We need to see significant and immediate change here, and I look forward to working with her to ensure a more fair and equitable justice system in our city.
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) December 30, 2019
“We want to congratulate Chief Outlaw on her appointment to be the next Philadelphia Police Commissioner,” said FOP Lodge 5 President, John McNesby. “Our members were hoping for one of the strong, internal candidates to be elevated to the Commissioner’s office. However, we look forward to a professional, working partnership with Chief Outlaw that includes making our city safer for our residents and our 6,500 police officers, who serve with respect and dedication.”
“The Rally For Justice Coalition met with the mayor as he considered a new police commissioner. We told him that we preferred a black woman in that position. Mayor Kenney listened and we appreciate him doing so,” Solomon Jones from the Rally For Justice Coalition said in a statement. “We welcome Danielle Outlaw as the new police commissioner and we are excited for the new beginning she represents. We encourage Commissioner Outlaw to get to know Philadelphia’s leaders and community-based organizations, especially those that represent black and brown people.”
Community activists say they’re optimistic about her future.
“We hope that she succeeds because if she doesn’t, it’s going to be our lives that are at stake,” Jones said.
While in Oakland, Outlaw won the 2015 Gary Hayes Award — a national award given to those who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in the police profession.
Outlaw succeeds Acting Commissioner Christine Coulter, who took over in August after the sudden resignation of Commissioner Richard Ross.
Coulter was at City Hall Monday for the announcement and when asked how she feels about the new pick, she said it’s a big day for Outlaw, who will begin her new role in February.
Ross stepped down as the city’s top cop following his alleged failure to address sexual harassment claims.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.