Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw to Step Down

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is set to step down from her position this month to assume a leadership role in a New York-area transit system. Outlaw, the first Black woman to lead the 6,000-member department, took on the role just before the pandemic shutdown and faced numerous challenges during her tenure.

Under Outlaw’s leadership, the Philadelphia Police Department navigated through pandemic lockdowns, Black Lives Matter protests, and ongoing debates about racial issues in policing. The department’s response to protests following the police killing of George Floyd drew criticism, with the city council condemning the “brutal” and “excessive” tactics used.

Outlaw also faced scrutiny in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a young Black man with a history of mental illness. The incident sparked discussions about the need for improved mental health services and police response protocols.

In addition, the department faced backlash when it was discovered that initial statements about a man being killed by an officer during a traffic stop were inaccurate. Outlaw took action to address the situation, intending to terminate the officer involved.

Despite the challenges, Mayor Jim Kenney praised Outlaw for her commitment to reform and her efforts to combat racism and discrimination within the department. He appointed First Deputy John M. Stanford Jr. as interim police commissioner.

Outlaw’s departure comes as Philadelphia faces a rise in homicides. Although there have been slight declines over the past two years, the city recorded a record-high of 562 homicides in 2021. Advocates are hopeful that the trend will continue to decrease.

During her time as commissioner, Outlaw also faced a gender bias lawsuit from female officers within the department. The lawsuit resulted in a $1 million federal verdict in favor of the officers, highlighting the need for a more inclusive and respectful work environment.

Outlaw will now assume the position of deputy chief security officer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The agency is also establishing a new security and technology department to oversee safety across its facilities.

The challenges and scrutiny faced by Outlaw reflect broader conversations about police funding, tactics, and accountability following the death of George Floyd. Numerous police chiefs across the United States and Canada have retired or resigned in response to the increased scrutiny.

As Philadelphia transitions to new leadership, concerns about public safety, crime rates, and the future of the police department remain key issues in the upcoming mayoral race. Democratic candidate Cherelle Parker has yet to provide details on her plans for the department.