Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw gave a round of media interviews on Wednesday, including one 25-minute session with reporters from The Inquirer and 6ABC. Here are excerpts from that conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Outlaw addressed a variety of topics, some at length, including: How do you build community trust? How do you build an inner circle in a new department? Do you have immediate gun violence plans? How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the department and the city?
"You know, we’re all human beings, and I think the challenge for us is reminding people that we’re human beings behind this uniform, and behind this badge. And a lot of us do a lot of the same things that they do. We’re aunts, cousins, nieces, coaches out in the community.
"But given that we do what we do all day, every day, we tend to get put in, for lack of a better term, a box. We’re seen as enforcers.
"We have to recognize in law enforcement, whether it’s here or anywhere, that community feels a certain way for a reason. Historically, when you look at why police began in the first place, it wasn’t for a positive reason. It wasn’t to protect all of the community. It wasn’t about equity and to ensure community safety of all. It was to ensure — we began as slave patrols, to be quite frank.
"And as time progresses, there are still a lot of generations, whether living or told through loved ones over time, that remember this. So there’s community mistrust, and then we also have to acknowledge that we represent an institution that in some places might further that institutionalized and systemic racism that many people have experienced. So we have to understand the why. We have to understand why the mistrust exists.
"With that said, a lot of the officers that are working today have nothing to do with that. A lot of our officers are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed when they first start, and they genuinely want to serve. And over time, you know, we can become cynical, again because of the nature of the work. But we don’t understand: Why is it that they don’t see me, the individual? Why are they lumping me in the same category and just seeing the uniform and blaming me or holding me accountable for the — for what happened in the past?
"It’s not something that changes overnight. We’re talking about trust-building. And quite frankly, it’s like any relationship. We’re talking about establishing relationships and then, understanding that we’re all working toward a common goal, and that we can get to yes, even though we have differences."
"I can talk about all these great strategies, you know, that we’re going to roll out in time, what my vision is. But I learned over time that if I don’t have the people to implement these strategies, it’s all a moot point.
"Is it realistic to say that I’m going to have a very close and personal one-on-one relationship with the thousands of employees that work here? Absolutely not. But I think it’s important to not only just attend the high-level meetings, but really go down to where the work is being done and observe rank and file, whether sworn or civilian, in action, so I have an opportunity to hear from them. That’s the only way to find out what’s working, what’s not working, what we need to tweak
“And then as I sit back and I watch and I hear people speak, you can tell. It’s actually easier than a lot of people think. You can tell who the innovators are. You can tell those who are OK with status quo and need a little nudging. You can tell. People self-identify rather quickly. So I’m actually pretty excited about the possibilities here. There’s a lot of really good, strong people that are coming into the community and just need to be put in positions of influence or just need to be given more responsibility.”
"This was all in the works before I got here. I think it just took a little bit longer than it probably should.
"We know that there’s a very small percent of the population that’s responsible for a very large percent of crime. And focusing us, but through the use of data, through the use of intelligence, and technology, using all these things, focusing on who we need to focus on, and really establishing some quick wins in smaller portions of the city — I think we’ll see really large impact citywide.
“With that said, there has to be — and I believe this will occur — strong collaboration not just among local law enforcement but at the local, state, and federal levels. A lot of that has been happening already, but I think there is room to strengthen that as well.”
"You know, I live here. So I’ve got to get to the store, I’ve got to — you know, I’m a resident, I’ll figure it out at some point.
"But there has to be portions of my day where I am driving out and about, and learning locations and who’s who and what’s what.
"The bigger part was, I requested a lot of information that was provided to me prior to even getting here. So there’s a lot of studying to do, and that has been done.
"I wanted bios and photos of current leadership. I wanted copies of all studies done, outside studies done, if there had been any consultant work. I wanted crime stats for the last three years, including year to date. I wanted to know about technology, I wanted to know about crime strategies.