Outlaw, whose last name then was Bowman, made her television debut as a contestant during college week on Wheel of Fortune. A big chunk of her $40,000 winnings came after she guessed that the mystery title on the word board was the name of the popular lifeguard TV show.
After guessing correctly and learning from Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak that she’d won a $20,000 GM MasterCard, Outlaw shouted for joy and pumped both fists in the air, then hugged her parents, who had raced onstage.
The Portland Mercury, which obtained video clips of the Wheel of Fortune program, first reported on Outlaw’s appearance in 2017, shortly after she became commissioner of the Portland Police Bureau. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced this week that the Oakland, Calif., native had been chosen as commissioner from a field of 31 candidates.
Outlaw, the first African American woman to head the 6,600-member department, will be paid $285,000 — more than seven times her Wheel of Fortune haul.
She’s not the first government big to have appeared on a television program before getting into public service.
Baltimore’s top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, who in 2015 gained national headlines after indicting six local cops in the death of Freddie Gray, appeared on an episode of Judge Judy in 2000. Mosby, who was in college at the time, sought and won $1,731.90 in damages from a neighbor who trashed her college apartment when she was away for the summer.
Then there was the late Sen. John McCain. In 1965, two years before becoming a Vietnam prisoner of war — and 43 years before losing the 2008 presidential election — McCain lost on the original Jeopardy! show hosted by Art Fleming. McCain won the first day he was on the show, but lost the next day when he failed to correctly answer a Final Jeopardy question about the Emily Bronte novel Wuthering Heights.
Outlaw, who was a college junior when she appeared on Wheel of Fortune, confidently told host Sajak and the San Francisco studio audience that “I hope to go into law enforcement.”