Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw is out, and critics say, given the surge in violent crime during her tenure, it’s none too soon.
Mayor Jim Kenney announced Tuesday that Outlaw is leaving her post to take a job with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Her last day is Sept. 22.
Mike Chitwood, the former Upper Darby police superintendent who spent nearly 20 years with the Philadelphia Police Department, said he wasn’t surprised that Outlaw is jumping ship.
“The rank-and-file officers called her ‘MIA’ (for ‘missing in action’),” said Chitwood, adding that Outlaw frequently traveled to the West Coast. “She should have never been police commissioner.”
Crime fighting in Philadelphia “has collapsed” under her tenure, Chitwood said. “She had to go. The first year, she was missing in action. In the second and third years, there was a total collapse. I blame the mayor.”
Philadelphia FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby, who often locked horns with Outlaw, said, “We wish Commissioner Outlaw the very best in her next opportunity. And we look forward to working with interim Commissioner John Stanford. Our rank-and-file police officers face significant challenges keeping our city safe, being down at least 1,500 police officers, and hope we can begin to make progress on the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified police officers.”
Outlaw released a statement praising her staff for its “teamwork, innovative thinking, and determination” and thanking Kenney for the “honor and privilege to serve.”
Philadelphia is in the process of electing a new mayor, and that person will pick the next police commissioner. Both Republican David Oh and Democrat Charelle Parker pledge to be tough on crime.
Oh said, “I wish Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw well in her new position. I appreciated her responsiveness and professionalism under very difficult circumstances. No sooner had she arrived when she had to lead the Police Department through the outbreak of COVID-19, George Floyd civil unrest, defund the police movement, and the mayor and district attorney’s weak on crime policies. I felt she was disadvantaged by an administration that had strained relations with its police force.”
Parker, who is all but certain to be the next mayor of the overwhelmingly Democratic city, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Vince Fenerty, chairman of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee, called Outlaw’s time as Police Commissioner “a total failure to police the city’s streets, leaving the city a much more violent, unsafe, and tumultuous place than when she took office in February of 2020. If you are a resident of Philadelphia, chances are you have heard a gunshot near your door in the time since Outlaw took over; chances are you know somebody who has been robbed, carjacked, shot, or killed.”
Law enforcement in suburban communities have complained Philadelphia’s failure to control crime has resulted in more violence in local streets.
“It’s worse in Philly because she was in charge,” said Chitwood. “And not only Philly but the greater Philadelphia area.”
Broad and Liberty compiled crime statistics showing a jump for both the city and suburbs, with carjackings increasing since 2019. The city had 1,331 carjackings in 2022 compared to 224 in 2019. Homicides dropped slightly from 556 in 2021 to 504 in 2022, but robberies increased by 20.75 percent.
And crime in the collar counties grew by double digits from 2021 to 2022, faster than the rest of the state.
Kenney stood by his outgoing commissioner.
“Commissioner Outlaw has worked relentlessly for three and a half years during an unprecedented era in our city and a number of crisis situations, and she deserves praise for her commitment to bring long-overdue reform to the department after years of racism and gender discrimination prior to her appointment,” said Kenney. “We wish her success in her new position and thank Commissioner Outlaw for her dedication to serving the residents of Philadelphia.”