PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is resigning her post and heading for a job with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Her departure, however, is not unexpected.
Outlaw arrived from Portland, Oregon and took the post in February 2020 — one month before the COVID-19 shutdown, followed by a summer of civil unrest. She said it was a difficult introduction.
“A lot of my introduction was virtually, which can be very sterile, very cold and you don’t really get to know who someone is virtually,” she said.
At the same time, homicides that had begun to climb before her arrival steadily increased, hitting a peak of 562 last year. Outlaw said, though, the department is beginning to see its anti-violence strategies work.
“Crime is down, clearance rates are up,” she said. “We have really good initiatives in place that focus on employee health and well-being. We’ve strengthened our communications with community.”
Outlaw believes it is the right time to leave, with a new mayor coming in. During the primary campaign, candidates were asked repeatedly if they would keep her on. Some said yes, some no.
Democrat Cherelle Parker, who won the primary, wouldn’t answer, but said in a statement, "While there will be many Monday morning quarterbacks second guessing her performance and decision-making, I have nothing but a great deal of respect and admiration for the job that she has done for our city.
Republican mayoral candidate David Oh previously said he would seek a replacement, if elected.
Outlaw said the new mayor should be able to pick his or her own team, and she’s ready to move on.
She was the first woman — and the first woman of color — to hold the position in Philadelphia.
Outlaw, who has an MBA, said the job with the quasi-public Port Authority offers a transition to the private sector — and some anonymity.
“Quite frankly, I look forward to not being the face of everything,” she added.
Mayor Jim Kenney has appointed First Deputy John Stanford to serve as acting police commissioner. Administration sources emphasize the mayor did not ask for Outlaw’s resignation — this is her decision, on her timeline.
Philly leaders react
City leaders have noted how Outlaw’s start as commissioner was tough, beginning with the killing of Sgt. James O’Connor, followed by reorganizing and implementing new policies to handle pandemic woes, and the shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr.
Kenney said in a statement that she "worked relentlessly for three and a half years during an unprecedented era in our city and a number of crisis situations." Later, he told reporters he knew she was the right choice from their first meeting. "I think she has done a terrific job and I would pick her again, and I wish she would stay until the end," he said.
"There is no police commissioner who has ever dealt with the tornado of black swan events that Commissioner Outlaw was forced to reckon with during her tenure," wrote Parker.
City Council president Darrell Clarke echoed her sentiments. "This is a very tough job in a very tough city and I was surprised at how she made the transition from West Coast to East Coast in a relatively short time," he said.
In a separate statement, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said he wishes her well.
“Incidents of gun violence and other violent crime continue to decrease since the pandemic peak, thankfully, and it is critical that the City of Philadelphia seize this moment to get ahead of violent crime by investing robustly in prevention, and modern enforcement with a state-of-the-art forensics lab and other innovations,” he said.
“As city leadership transitions to a new mayoral administration, we must also recommit to integrity, transparency, and accountability.”
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby said he also wishes her well, but hopes whoever is chosen next for the role addresses departmental challenges like boosting police staffing levels.
"I am hoping we can absolutely increase the ranks. We are 1,500 to 1,600 people low right now. It’s stretched thin, especially some of the smaller districts and we need people. Safety is an issue, not only for our officers but for the community."
Outlaw will join the Port Authority as its deputy security chief. Her last day with the Philadelphia Police Department will be Sept. 22.