PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has hired an Outlaw — Danielle Outlaw — to bring stability to a police department that has had a revolving door of leadership.
Outlaw is the first black woman to become chief of police in Oregon’s largest city. But at her introductory news conference Thursday, Outlaw said she just wants people to see her as Danielle.
“I realize I wear many hats and I represent a lot of things to many people,” she said. “And because of that there’s an added responsibility and expectation placed on me — and I own that.”
The 41-year-old Outlaw has spent the past 19 years with the Oakland Police Department, rising to deputy chief. Wheeler selected her from a pool of 33 candidates in a national search.
Outlaw is the fifth person to have the chief’s job in less than three years. She replaces Mike Marshman, who had the position for just over a year.
Wheeler inherited Marshman when he became mayor in January and decided to put his own person in charge. The mayor said he and Outlaw share a dedication to “improving relationships with Portland’s communities of color, increasing diversity and embracing equity.”
Like other large police agencies, the Portland Police Bureau has been criticized for its handling of protests and for fatal shootings at the hands of its officers. Moreover, a 2012 government investigation found that Portland police engaged in a pattern of excessive force against the mentally ill.
Outlaw stopped short of acknowledging she’s been hired to reform the bureau, saying her task is to strengthen the good work already being done.
“But, of course, I also have a job to do,” she said. “I have a job to make sure that we hold ourselves accountable. We’re accountable to the community.”
In terms of handling protests, Outlaw said she got a lot of practice in Oakland and learned many lessons about what works and what doesn’t.
“Whether I agree or disagree, that’s their truth,” she said. “It can be Black Lives Matter or whomever. As long as it’s done in a lawful way — no one gets hurt, it’s not violent — I think people have a right to demonstrate.”
Regarding Black Lives Matter, Outlaw said she has no opinion on the activist group that protests racial profiling and police killings.
“But at the same time, I think it’s very important as an organization that we have to be willing to hear things that we might not want to hear.” she said.
Outlaw already has one fan in town, and it’s a prominent one in a place that loves its NBA team. Damian Lillard, the Oakland-raised star of the Portland Trail Blazers, posted a story about Outlaw’s hiring to Twitter and wrote: “Oakland to Portland with it… #Hello.”
Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub