Philly Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is resigning

Outlaw has accepted a new role as the deputy chief security officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is resigning from her position, effective Sept. 22.

Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday announced that First Deputy John M. Stanford Jr. will serve as interim police commissioner.

Outlaw, the first Black woman to lead the department, accepted a new role as the deputy chief security officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“Commissioner Outlaw has worked relentlessly for three and a half years during an unprecedented era in our city and a number of crisis situations, and she deserves praise for her commitment to bring long-overdue reform to the Department after years of racism and gender discrimination prior to her appointment,” Kenney said in a written statement. “We wish her success in her new position and thank Commissioner Outlaw for her dedication to serve the residents of Philadelphia.”

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Outlaw stepped into the commissioner’s role on Feb. 10, 2020. She had previously led Portland’s police department, also as the first Black woman to do so.

“Throughout my tenure, I have persistently strived to ensure that we excel in areas where the needs of the Department and the community are not just met – but are exceeded,” Outlaw said in a statement.

Outlining the details of the Crime Prevention and Violence Reduction Action Plan, she cited crime reduction and improved case clearance rates as evidence of significant progress.

“Our team has shown incredible adaptability and has worked tirelessly to maintain our pillars of organizational excellence, crime prevention and reduction, and community engagement and inclusion even in the face of adversity,” she said. “My staff’s teamwork, innovative thinking, and determination have kept the Department moving forward, and for that, I am extremely grateful.”

Outlaw led the department during the height of the pandemic and protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd. At times, her leadership was called into question. Outlaw’s role in the tear-gassing of protesters and residents in the summer of 2020 was subject to heavy scrutiny.

Over the course of the past three years, the city’s police department has been scrutinized at length for the surge in gun violence. Amid the criticism, rumors swirled of Outlaw leaving the position to become the top cop in New York City.

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Parker, Krasner, and Oh weigh in on Outlaw’s impending resignation

Cherelle Parker, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said in a statement that no police commissioner “has ever dealt with the tornado of black swan events” that Outlaw faced during her tenure.

“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,” Parker said “We should remember her name because I know we will be hearing about her distinguished work in whatever capacity she chooses in the future – that is one thing I know for sure.”

Like his challenger, Republican mayoral candidate David Oh said in an interview with WHYY News, the circumstances Parker faced were challenging. However, Oh also reiterated his position that he would have replaced Outlaw with a department veteran, if elected.

Oh said he felt like Outlaw was being “micromanaged.”

“I personally like Danielle Outlaw … but for three and a half years, she’s been Mayor Kenney’s police commissioner and unfortunately she’s had to basically convey to the police force the mayor’s policies, such as not [arresting] shoplifters, not arresting drug dealers, not cracking down on ATV’s,” he said.  “She’s had to exist with our prosecutor Larry Krasner, who does not prosecute certain types of crimes, which is highly unpopular with the police. Police are very demoralized, so we’re losing police.”

District Attorney Larry Krasner, too, issued a press release  wishing Outlaw well in her next chapter. Pointing to falling violent crime rates, he said the city must “seize this moment” and invest in crime prevention, a “state-of-the-art forensics lab, and other innovations”.

“As city leadership transitions to a new mayoral administration, we must also recommit to integrity, transparency, and accountability within the Philadelphia Police Department and all law enforcement, including the DAO,” Krasner said. “Earning the trust of the public is critical to securing safety and peace in all communities.”

Outlaw’s impending resignation comes just weeks before the three-year anniversary of the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. in West Philadelphia. Wallace’s family settled their wrongful lawsuit with the city for $2.5 million.

More recently, after police shot and killed 27-year-old Eddie Irizarry Jr., long-existing accountability and transparency concerns with the city’s police force again drove calls for reform from advocates and community members.

WHYY’s Sammy Caiola contributed to this report.

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