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Amid Rising Crime Across Delaware Valley, Philly Top Cop Says ‘I’m Out!’

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.”

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Chester County Commissioner Kichline Not Running for Another Term

With Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline not running for re-election, candidates are already announcing bids to replace her.

Kichline is about to enter the last year of her second elected term. She was appointed in 2014.

“I was pretty clear with party leadership; I’m one of those people who believe in term limits,” she told the Delaware Valley Journal. “By the end of next year, I’ll have served nine years. It’s a little bittersweet.”

While she is uncertain what her next step will be, she does not rule out running for another elected office in the future.

“I’m not sure what the next chapter will be,” said Kichline. “I’m sure it will include some sort of public service. At this point, I don’t have any plans.”

“I’m most proud of the work we’ve done in Chester County on the heroin and opioid addiction crisis,” Kichline said. “That’s something I’ve been working on since my first year as a commissioner. I went around talking to people and realized how this is affecting people. And it didn’t matter their income or education. It was really before people realized what a problem we have.”

Kichline began the Chester County Color 5K, an annual local race that raises funds benefiting victims of the opioid crisis. The money supports the C.O.P.E. Program, which provides one-to-one support for overdose survivors and their families. It is now available at all of Chester County’s hospitals. Dubbed a “warm hand-off program,” it also provides overdose prevention information and outreach to first responders, hospital staff, family members, and friends. Importantly, these funds provide expedited admission into detox facilities.

She has also been a champion of economic development in the county and also of preserving open space. The two go hand-in-hand, she said, since many people want to work and live where there is open land to enjoy.

“In Chester County, we’ve really advocated for businesses to stay open,” she said. “And post-pandemic we’re seeing more people doing remote work. And younger people wanting work-life balance.”

The open space program was started by Republicans 30 years ago, Kichline said. “And we are nationally recognized for preserving farmland and open space.”

“We don’t necessarily have the density and overdevelopment as some of our neighboring counties,” said Kichline.

Also, Chester County has maintained its AAA bond rating and started a program to lure more tech entrepreneurs and start-ups to set up shop there. Kichline has been part of the initiative known as Venture ChesCo, which works with Ben Franklin Partners. The program invests $4 million, half by Ben Franklin and half by Chester County, in new tech companies and those looking to apply new technologies to their existing business operations.

Running the county is like running a business, she said. There are 2,400 employees and a $60 million budget.

She announced her decision not to run again now so that others can campaign in 2023.

One candidate is Dave Sommers. He is a secondary educator in social studies with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He said he would reject harmful interference, mandates, restrictions, and closures for schools, businesses, and places of worship. He will work to preserve the historic character and natural beauty of Chester County. And reject wasteful spending and promote conservative fiscal policies. In addition, he promises transparency and will ensure election integrity.

Eric Roe, a former state representative who works in financial services, is also running for county commissioner.

Roe, who plans to kick off his campaign on the courthouse steps Dec. 3, hopes to “see Chester County become the most family-friendly, business-friendly county in the nation someday.” He wants to make it more affordable to live here” while also preserving Chester County’s landscapes and preventing overdevelopment.

Kichline has also fought for improved transportation, including the new train station in Paoli and another station coming to Coatesville.

Kichline grew up in Chester County after her parents came to the U.S. from Hungary. After graduating from Conestoga High School, she earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to study law at Temple University. After clerking for Judge Stanley R. Ott in Montgomery County, she worked at Wistler Pearlstine.

Before her appointment as county commissioner, she was on Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors from 2010 to 2013, serving as chair for the last two years. She also served on Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board and was its first female chair in 2007.

Kichline lives in Berwyn with her husband Michael. They have two children, a daughter, 24, and a 21-year-old son. Once she leaves office, she hopes to have more time to exercise and also take art classes.

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GIORDANO: Slivers of Hope for Philly Politics

I promise this column will offer slivers of hope for the future of the city of Philadelphia.

For example, the crop of candidates to be the city’s next mayor will almost certainly be better than Mayor Jim Kenney. And the police commissioner that new mayor appoints is all but a lock to be better than current Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. That’s the good news.

The challenge is getting to that election and limiting the damage of the current administration. I’ve learned that groups similar to the marauders who recently took over Wildwood, N.J. — perhaps even connected to them — are headed here this weekend. Those thugs, in the course of their lawlessness, drag racing, and violence left two dead and many injured in their wake. Now sources say they are on the Philadelphia Police Department’s radar and the cops are so concerned they’re extending hours for those on duty and calling up more officers.

Their job wasn’t made any easier by the new law, authored by Philadelphia City Councilman Isiah Thomas, which greatly limits the reasons Philadelphia police can stop vehicles for violations. Thomas pushed the bill because he believes many police engage in racial profiling in stopping motorists. Some cops fear the gangs that may be flooding into Philadelphia this weekend are aware of this change and are ready to exploit it.

This is the current situation Philadelphia has backed itself into. But there is another silver of hope. The situation has gotten so bad that I’m told several influential people in Philadelphia are gearing up to push a plan similar to the one Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer and local police have put into action to greatly reduce violence in the city of Chester. That plan targets those who are in groups that are likely to shoot someone or be shot by someone and offers them programs to help give them decent jobs and change their lives. Otherwise, they will be at the center of the law enforcement radar whenever violence happens. The influential group in Philadelphia will demand that candidates for mayor sign off on instituting the Chester plan in Philadelphia or suffer united opposition.

I have interviewed most of the likely candidates for mayor and think they would sign off on a Chester plan. Candidates like former Councilpersons Cherelle Parker, Derek Green, and Alan Domb would institute a plan like Chester’s and I think if supermarket magnate Jeff Brown runs, he would, too.

The one candidate who would not sign off is Councilperson Helen Gym. I believe she is going to run. I know she is as far left as Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. She is a hardcore opponent of charter schools and gun rights. And she is a harsh critic of the police. If she wins, I’m convinced Philadelphia will be more lawless than it is now.

Which is why I’m optimistic, after speaking with some powerful liberal groups, that there is widespread support for a system like Chester’s, and the need to confront our crime issue in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, if Larry Krasner is still the D.A. it won’t make much difference what approach the city takes if he’s putting his progressive politics ahead of public safety. Let’s hope the state legislature solves that problem for us.

And speaking (again) of hope, I’m hopeful for the future because, during a recent interview on my radio show, Republican Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh told me if he sees a path to victory, he may give up his seat and run for mayor. He would do a great job.

So, let’s hope that this coming weekend the Philadelphia police can protect citizens and the green shoots of hope for our city will continue to grow.

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