Sep 5, 2023 - News

Philadelphia's top cop is stepping down for new job

Philadelphia Police commissioner Danielle Outlaw. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Philadelphia police commissioner Danielle Outlaw is resigning later this month to take a new job.

Why it matters: Outlaw became the first Black woman to lead the force in 2020, facing unprecedented pandemic shutdowns, racial justice protests and surging gun violence that officials say appears to have finally peaked.

Driving the news: Outlaw is being tapped as deputy security chief at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

  • Her last day as commissioner is Sept. 22, the city said in a statement Tuesday.

Between the lines: Outlaw's resignation comes just weeks after a fatal police shooting in Kensington, and ahead of a mayoral election that put her future as the department's leader in doubt.

  • Republican mayoral nominee David Oh had told Axios that he'd replace Outlaw if elected while his counterpart, Democrat Cherelle Parker, hadn't made her intentions known.

What they're saying: Outlaw told the Inquirer she has "a lot of years" left in the workforce and is up for a new challenge that will have her overseeing security of the region's airports, bridges, tunnels, and ports.

  • Mayor Jim Kenney praised Outlaw's "commitment to bring long-overdue reform" in a statement, saying that the department seized a record number of guns off the streets and improved solve rates in shootings while she was in charge.
  • Parker in a statement credited the commissioner for reckoning with a "tornado of black swan events" in the role.

Context: Outlaw took over a scandal-rocked department following sexual harassment allegations that led to the resignation of former police chief Richard Ross. And her tenure was marred by struggles right out of the gate.

  • As Kenney's pick, Outlaw had difficulties building inroads with the police union and some of the rank-and-file.
  • Fewer than two months in, Cpl. James O'Connor IV was shot and killed serving a warrant in Frankford. He became the first officer in five years to be killed in the line of duty.
  • Shortly after, pandemic shutdowns forced her to make critical decisions about how to police the city.

The latest: More recently, the department was slammed for putting out a false narrative about what led to an officer shooting and killing Eddie Irizarry last month. Outlaw retracted the statement after viewing body camera footage that she said contradicts the department's initial claims that Irizarry lunged at an officer with a knife.

  • She later announced that she was suspending officer Mark Dial with the intent to dismiss for not cooperating with the department's investigation.

What's ahead: Outlaw is being replaced by her top deputy, John Stanford, who'll serve as interim commissioner for the remainder of Kenney's term.

  • The next mayor will pick the department's leader after they're sworn in.

The bottom line: Outlaw previously told Axios that being Philly's first female top cop was a "blessing and a curse" that came with "unrealistic expectations."

  • "When a turnaround does not happen overnight, we are often scapegoated," she said.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more