In her first public remarks since being selected, Portland’s next police chief, Danielle Outlaw, said her goal is not reform, but rather to support the Portland Police Bureau’s good work.
“I want to make it very clear, I’m not here to — I don’t want to say reform, I’m here to strengthen the good work that’s already been done here from the police department and the members within the department,” Outlaw said at a news conference Thursday. “Of course, I also have a job to do. I have a job to make sure we hold ourselves accountable, we’re accountable to the community.”
Outlaw comes to Portland after 19 years with the Oakland Police Department. Since 2013, she has served as a deputy chief.
Like Portland, the Oakland Police Department has been under court orders to improve transparency and accountability when officers use force. Outlaw acknowledged the similarities between OPD and Portland.
“I’ve been approached by many recruiters over the years asking to put in for chief positions,” she said. “For me it’s not about just having a title of police chief, it’s about being able to go somewhere and add value to the communities, to the organization and being able to walk away leaving that organization a lot stronger than when it was before.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he selected Outlaw because of her ability to provide leadership to the bureau’s 1,200 employees and further establish modern policing policies throughout the agency.
“Chief Outlaw and I have shared dedication to improving relationships with Portland’s communities of color, increasing diversity and embracing equity,” Wheeler said. “I believe the success of this community, the success of this bureau and the success of all of us in this community are tied to Chief Outlaw’s success. She has the full backing of my administration.”
Wheeler called on officers and leaders at the bureau, as well the the city at large, to welcome her.
The Portland Police Association’s leadership publicly backed former Chief Mike Marshman for the job. Marshman was one of four finalists. He took over in an interim capacity in 2016, but announced his retirement Monday, just minutes after Outlaw was named chief.
Outlaw said as a leader its her job to make sure rank-and-file officers have the training and resources they need.
Outlaw also addressed what it means to be the city’s first female African-American chief of police and someone to lead the agency as an outsider, rather than having risen through the ranks.
“I would really hope it was my qualifications that got me here — actually I know that’s what got me here,” Outlaw said in response to a question from a television news reporter. “And then it just so happens to be that I’m an African-American female. But with that said, I realize I wear many hats and I represent a lot of things to many people and because of that, there’s an added responsibility and expectation placed on me. And I own that.”
Outlaw also addressed questions about protesters and the role of the police in those situations. She said she’s seen how police can inflame and deescalate situations.
“I have a lot of lessons about what not to do,” Outlaw said, referencing her experiences in Oakland. “I value perspective, I value diversity and people come out and demonstrate because there’s something there.”