As A Child, Danielle Outlaw Was Afraid Of Cops. Now She Runs The Portland Police

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Written by Ann Brown

Danielle Outlaw grew up in a tough neighborhood of East Oakland, Calif. and witnessed the precarious relationship between the police and her community. She had no love for the police, especially after the arrest of her cousin who was like her brother to her.

“The police took away someone I loved very, very deeply for a very long time,” she recalled to Willamette Week. “You came and created a void in my life, and I don’t like you because of it.”

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Many people close to Outlaw were shocked when she announced in 1990 that she wanted to be a police officer. This happened after a school outing that included a ride-along with an Oakland police officer. The teenage Outlaw was hooked on law enforcement.

“No one was saying they wanted to be a police officer growing up,” Outlaw told Willamette Week. “People were shocked. My dad told me flat-out it was a waste of a degree.”

After college, Outlaw joined the Oakland Police Department (OPD), where she worked for 20 years. Outlaw’s career was on the fast track. She was a beat cop for just a short time before rising through the ranks to become Oakland’s second female deputy chief and the highest-ranking woman in the department. She later served as commander in charge of the records division, the 911 dispatch center, and training. Outlaw worked as a public information officer as well before becoming a captain in the internal affairs division.

The OPD, reportedly one of the most corrupt police departments in the country at the time, was known for its scandals. Outlaw was never found to be involved in any of the scandals, which included police shootings of a series of Black men including Oscar Grant, who was shot by transit police while lying face-down on a train platform in 2009; and four of her colleagues, known as the “rough riders,” who planted drugs on Black suspects.

Many were even more surprised when the mayor of Portland, Oregon, Ted Wheeler, handpicked Outlaw, 42, to run the Portland Police Bureau. She is the first woman of color to run the department.

Hopes were soon dashed that Outlaw would reform law enforcement and be a police chief for the community.

Many people in Portland are complaining that she is more about protecting the police than servicing the community, Willamette Week reported. Things came to a head when Outlaw and the mayor backed an ordinance that would drastically limit public protests. A proposed ordinance gave Portland police more freedom in the methods used to control public protesters.

“Instead of reform, she’s pushing to put greater power into the police bureau’s hands by, among other things, forcing protest groups into what are effectively ‘free-speech zones’—limiting when and where groups may demonstrate,” Willamette Week reported.

Outlaw has some experience working with protesters, having been an OPD lieutenant in 2011 when the Occupy Oakland protests set up camps in the city and refused to vacate.

“One day, Oakland police struck the Occupy protesters with flash-bangs, bean bags and other less-than-lethal munitions, leaving several people with bruises, chemical burns or permanent hearing loss,” Willamette Week reported. “The city of Oakland paid protesters $1 million in damages and implemented a number of reforms local civil rights leaders say have drastically reduced the department’s use of force on protesters.”

Outlaw was in internal affairs at the time and handled all complaints filed against the Oakland police after the protests.

“We were still of the mindset of ‘Just as long as no one gets hurt, we’re good,'” Outlaw said. “I walked away from that saying, ‘OK, there has to be balance.’ The merchants also wanted to feel safe. There were a lot of windows that had been busted out.”

 

Danielle Outlaw
This photo provided by the Portland Police bureau shows Danielle Outlaw, right, shaking hands with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler while posing for a photo after she was sworn in as Portland Police Chief in Portland, Ore., Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Outlaw is the third woman, and first black woman, to become chief of police in Oregon’s largest city. (Portland Police Bureau via AP)

Once in Portland, Outlaw authorized the use of flash-bangs to disperse a crowd of leftist counter protesters opposing Patriot Prayer on Aug. 4. This resulted in a 52-year-old woman getting chemical burns. In addition to this, a young man who was hit directly by a flash band had to be rushed to the hospital with a brain hemorrhage.

Then in September, as officers responded to a 3 a.m. fight in downtown Portland, they saw 27-year-old Patrick Kimmons in a shuffle. According to police he pulled a pistol and fired five shots into the crowd, hitting two men before running toward police. Sgt. Garry Britt and Officer Jeffrey Livingston fired and shot Kimmons nine times. Eyewitnesses refute the police account and say Kimmons was actually running away from the police and that he had tossed the gun. Kimmons died of his injuries less than an hour later. The next day Outlaw spoke personally with Kimmons’ family and friends.

Days later a group called Don’t Shoot Portland marched through downtown and chanted, “Black lives matter!” The protest blocked traffic. “A frustrated driver tried to push through a small crowd of protesters on Oct. 6. As he slowly pushed his car into a man who refused to move, other protesters banged their fists on his silver Lexus. Fox News and other conservative media outlets seized on video of the confrontation. They accused Mayor Wheeler and Portland police of allowing ‘mob rule’ to take over the city,” KATU reported.

This led to Mayor Wheeler announcing a proposed ordinance to give Outlaw and the police power. But on Nov. 14 the Portland City council rejected the ordinance. There has been no response from Wheeler and Outlaw as to their next move.