Portland selects first African American woman to be next chief of police
Danielle Outlaw, a 19-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department who started as a police explorer, will serve as Portland's next chief
By Maxine Bernstein
PORTLAND, Ore. — Danielle Outlaw, a 19-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department who started as a police explorer when she was in high school, will serve as Portland's next chief, only the third outsider named to lead the Police Bureau.
Her appointment Monday by Mayor Ted Wheeler comes at a critical time when community and police relations are strained and the force faces a daunting list of federally mandated reforms.
The mayor said Outlaw shares his goals of improving bureau relationships with Portland's communities of color, increasing diversity on the 950-member force and embracing equity.
Outlaw, 41, who has served as a deputy chief since 2013, rose to the top of a pool of 33 candidates who applied for the job. She becomes the first African American woman to head the bureau.
The mayor selected Outlaw after a national search that lasted less than three months and was conducted largely behind closed doors with input from a select group of community members.
"I have concrete goals for the Portland Police Bureau, all of them challenging to achieve," Wheeler said in a statement. "I need a partner. I need a leader. More than that, I need someone with a passion for this work who will be in it for the long haul. Danielle Outlaw is that person.''
The mayor highlighted Outlaw's leadership skills, ability to work with diverse populations and a commitment to community policing and police accountability that set her apart. Outlaw, who has two teenage sons, intends to find a place to live within the Portland city limits.
Wheeler will introduce her at a news conference Thursday. She'll earn $215,000 annually and is expected to start no later than Oct. 2. The details of her hiring were ironed out over the weekend.
"My life's passion is policing. I want to make a positive difference in the lives of my fellow officers and the residents of the community,'' Outlaw said in a prepared statement released by the mayor's office. "Portland is an amazing city. I am humbled by the tremendous opportunity in front of me, and am ready to get to work.''
The applicants were quickly pared to 11 based on reviews of their resumes and written applications. Barbara Buono, the mayor's senior policy adviser, Michael Alexander, the former president of the Urban League of Portland, and Joseph Wahl, the city's manager of the Office of Equity and Human Rights, interviewed the 11 by Skype and recommended six.
Three community panels selected by the mayor then interviewed the candidates. The panels made recommendations to the mayor, who narrowed the six to four finalists. Two weeks ago, Wheeler interviewed the four, including current Chief Mike Marshman. Each candidate spent about two hours with the mayor.
Outlaw will take command of a bureau that has struggled with a staffing shortage, problems complying with a federal settlement agreement over excessive use of force against people with mental illness, ongoing controversies about the police handling of large protests and a breakdown in trust with community members.
The pick brings Marshman's yearlong tenure at the helm to a close, to the dismay of the rank-and-file union that came out in strong support of him.
Marshman learned of the selection when he met with the mayor at 2:30 p.m. and less than two hours later said he will retire with Assistant Chief Chris Uehara becoming the interim chief until Outlaw arrives.
Wheeler's spokesman, Michael Cox, said Marshman had the option to stay. He described Marshman as a "total professional'' when informed of the mayor's selection.
Marshman, 51, joined the bureau in April 1991.
"I want to thank the members of the Portland Police Bureau for their support and the incredible work they do every day to keep Portland safe,'' Marshman said in a release. "It has been an honor to serve as chief of police and to serve this community throughout my career. I'm confident that the Portland Police Bureau will continue to be a leader in 21st Century Policing and the community should rest easy knowing they have one of the best police departments in the country.''
Wheeler praised Marshman's brief tenure. "Mike Marshman made tremendous strides in key areas during his time as chief,'' Wheeler said. "I enjoyed a positive working relationship with him and have the highest respect for him as a leader and as a person. He is a good man.''
Officer Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association, said he wanted to focus on Marshman's accomplishments. "We wish he was the one who would lead us,'' Turner said. "There will be big shoes to fill.''
Turner participated in a community panel that interviewed the six candidates, but wouldn't comment on his reaction to Outlaw during the process.
Outlaw started with Oakland police as an explorer while she was a student at Holy Names High School. She eventually became the second female deputy chief in the history of the Oakland Police Department. She is also the first woman in the history of the department to lead the Bureau of Field operations Two, which includes East Oakland.
She has worked in various assignments, including patrol, community services, the chief's office, criminal investigation division, public information, internal affairs and the office of inspector general. Most recently, she's led the department's Bureau of Risk Management that includes internal affairs, personnel, training and forensics.
She earned a bachelor of arts in sociology from the University of San Francisco and a master's degree in business administration from Pepperdine University. She's a member of the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives and is vice president of the San Francisco Bay Area National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
She's also a graduate of the Major Cities Chiefs' Association Police Executive Leadership Institute and is involved in civic advocacy through Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, according to her resume.
In 2015, she received the annual Gary P. Hayes Award from the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., given to a single police executive who shows initiative in improving the quality of police services. The national award is based on character, record of leadership and commitment to better policing, according to the forum.
Outlaw's contributions to the Oakland department and the law enforcement field – including her work on community trust-building, officer wellness and enhanced accountability measures – led to the honor, according to minutes from an Oakland City Council meeting recognizing her achievement.
Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb said Monday he's sorry to see Outlaw leave.
"She's the real deal. She's honest. She's always been very personable and forthright and genuine,'' Kalb said. "She's established a great relationship with the community here.''
Civil rights right lawyer John Burris, who recently won a large settlement against Oakland police and is a founder of National Police Accountability Practice, called Outlaw "a progressive thinker'' on police use of force and recruitment of officers.
"I think she'll be an excellent chief. She certainly has the ideas and thoughtfulness to do it,'' Burris said. "She's a commanding person. She might be slightly built but she has a strong voice.''
The Rev. T. Allen Bethel, chairman of the Albina Ministerial Alliance who sat on one of the candidate interview panels, said he supported the mayor's choice "100 percent.''
"Personally, I believe we needed someone from the outside to come and look at the bureau with a fresh eye,'' Bethel said. Though Outlaw may be younger than some of the other candidates, Bethel said he was impressed with her experience in working to improve police accountability and connect with the Oakland community.
The Portland bureau has had a rough ride over the last year in its top management ranks.
Former Mayor Charlie Hales appointed Marshman as chief in late June 2016 after Chief Larry O'Dea retired amid a criminal investigation into his off-duty shooting of a friend during a camping trip in southeastern Oregon.
Turner credited Marshman for improving morale and setting the bureau on a positive course after O'Dea's controversy.
"He took a ship in troubled waters, in danger of running aground, and turned us back towards the horizon,'' he said. "His leadership stabilized this organization and improved morale.''
Marshman immediately named his own assistant chiefs and demoted those who served under O'Dea. He worked to speed up recruitment and hiring of new officers to fill vacancies and revamp police policy directives. Under his watch, police in riot-control gear responded with flash-bang grenades and tear gas to multiple large protests after one got out of hand and turned into a riot with significant property damage.
Shortly after he was named chief, Marshman released police reports stemming from an abuse allegation in 2006 involving his stepson at the time. He was accused of grabbing the stepson around the neck, but said he pushed the teenager against a wall during a dispute. A family services detective investigated the complaint. No criminal charges were filed.
For nearly three weeks this year, Marshman also was placed on paid leave while he and his executive assistant were under investigation for a complaint about an inaccurate training log that showed Marshman attending a training class though he never went.
His executive assistant, Lt. Mike Leasure, signed Marshman in. Initially, Leasure told investigators that the chief had instructed him to sign his name in on a class log, but then Leasure changed his account. Both officers returned to work, yet Leasure was moved to North Precinct.
©2017 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)