Just a day into her job as Portland’s top cop, newly sworn-in Chief Danielle Outlaw sat down with Fox 12 on Tuesday morning for an interview.
Outlaw said she plans to spend most of her first few weeks listening to others – both her new employees and community members. She said her next plan is to learn more about the bureau’s current policies and practices before making any changes.
Outlaw is a 19-year veteran of law enforcement and has spent her entire career with the Oakland Police Department until moving to Portland. In Oakland, she last served as a deputy chief.
Here are her answers to some of KPTV’s questions:
KPTV: What’s been your experience so far getting settled and up-to-speed in Portland?
Outlaw: “It’s been a whirlwind. I had a job that I needed to finish up there (Oakland, California) and I wanted to make sure that my previous employer had my full intention until I left, and I took a couple weeks or so to decompress, but I don’t know how much decompressing you can do when you’re moving from one state to the next, so I really spent the in-between time just trying to get settled and prepared to move, and do everything I can to get to know this organization.”
KPTV: The mayor set you up for a challenge, and said he has specific goals for this city. What are the biggest challenges the bureau faces, and how do you plan to address them?
Outlaw: “It just depends on how you look at them. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. I let folks know that while we’re simultaneously working on different things, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. The inclination is to run and try to tackle everything at once, but it has to be methodical, we’re not going to change things overnight. There’s a process – a relationship building that has to take place. I did research on the front-end before I got here, but now I’m actually here. I need to actually get out and meet people – see people face-to-face, do some assessment on my own and hear feedback from the community and internally, on what works and what doesn’t work -- what do we want to keep? What should we improve? What should we get rid of? It’s going to take some time for me to get out and meet these different people, and that’s what I’m in the process of doing. Yes, there are some challenges, but it’s not anything that’s insurmountable.”
KPTV: Portland Police has some big problems with staffing and we can see the effect – for example, when local races are altered because not enough officers are available, or when traffic officers are taken from normal duties to help out with patrol in other understaffed precincts. How are you going to tackle staffing problems?
Outlaw: “I’m not prepared to go into the weeds – only on day two -- but staffing is not something that’s unique to the Portland Police Department – or staffing issues, I should say. So it really is a matter of sitting down and taking a look at our recruitment efforts, and even worse, our retention efforts, and making sure that we do what we can prepare for when people retire, resign, or whatever it is as people leave and move on to greener pastures in their lives. What are we doing to make sure that we’ll be okay as we lose people? From what I’ve been able to tell, we’ve been doing really well with our recruitment efforts, but it takes about a year-and-a-half to get a full able-bodied police officer out on the street and ready to go. And we all know budget-wise, there’s going to be asks moving forward.”
KPTV: Does Portland Police have a problem with brutality when it comes to protesters and people of color?
Outlaw: “It’s still too early to say whether or not it’s a problem – as opposed to, is there something that we do well? Or we need to improve? – and I keep saying – ‘tweaking’ because there’s no magic solution anywhere, no one agency has figured out how to properly manage the perfect crowd management or critical incident. Before I judge on what’s been done previously, I want to make sure that I have a very thorough understanding of policies – what the directives are, because sometimes it’s not a person issue, it’s an institutional issue, as far as what policy directs staff to do. I want to take a look at how we train and then I’m going to take a very critical look at how we’ve done things in the past.”
KPTV: Based on your past experiences -- you’ve been in law enforcement for 19 years, are there specific trainings or even tactical practices or gear that you want to get the bureau thinking about when it comes to managing protests?
Outlaw: “That’s a good question, but again, I’ll emphasize that it’s day two. But the way these things work, critical incident review is key with anything, and in my previous experience, it was very important for us to make sure we debriefed on anything that was done, because that’s how you improve. Whether it’s an equipment issue, or a resource issue, any area that needs to improve – any area of risk or liability. That’s what I’m going to do here. It just depends on what we find – what those recommendations or suggestion would be. But I don’t know what I don’t know yet.”
KPTV: How will your leadership play a role in getting Portland Police officers equipped with body cameras?
Outlaw: “I’m certainly an advocate for the cameras. There’s many, many benefits to them. Obviously, cost is an issue, so that’s something that will have to be laid out. But body cameras are only one tool, there are a lot of different things that can be done to leverage risk and to make sure that we’re holding ourselves liable.”
KPTV: Will you allow police officers to wear blue lives matter symbols while in uniform?
Outlaw: “I haven’t dealt with that too much. I understand it was a topic here. I will address it, when it needs to, but I’ll leave the politics to the politicians.”
KPTV: What do you want people in the community to know?
Outlaw: “Watch out for us. There are a lot of good things to come from this organization as far as being contributors to our industry and how we improve it and make it better. There’s a lot of opportunity when there’s lessons learned. The key is just being introspective – you set the standard by raising the bar, and I really looked forward to how we’re going to do that as an organization. I look forward to the public being able to see us as human beings as opposed to just someone behind a uniform.”
KPTV: What do people tell you about your last name, Outlaw?
Outlaw: (Laughs) “It’s not an uncommon name in the south or on the east coast. But on the west coast – it apparently kind of stuns people. So I just tell people, ‘you got to make a name for yourself – but I’m the kinder, gentler Outlaw.”’
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