Acting Philly Police Commissioner Coulter’s future in department remains unknown

(Photo via Flickr Commons)

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter will step aside next month when Danielle Outlaw takes over the department, but her future with the department remains unknown.

“That has not yet been determined,” a police spokeswoman said in an email on Tuesday.

Mike Dunn, a spokesman for the Kenney administration, said in an email that Coulter’s future on the force was her decision.

“This is a personnel matter,” he said. “It is up to Commissioner Coulter to decide whether she wants to discuss her plans in the press. It is not our place to do so.”

And Coulter wasn’t available this week to talk to the press, as she was attending an out-of-state conference, a police spokeswoman said.

“Commissioner Christine Coulter is still a member of the Philadelphia Police Department and is still the Acting Police Commissioner until Commissioner Outlaw assumes command,” the police spokeswoman said.

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Coulter has led the department as the first female commissioner since Mayor Jim Kenney appointed her on an interim basis in August following the unexpected departure of ex-Commissioner Richard Ross.

Her final day in the role is Feb. 9 to make way for Kenney’s long-term choice, Outlaw, who will take over the next day.

Coulter’s salary jumped from approximately $218,000 to $240,000 after she rose to the four-star rank. Prior to her stint as commissioner, Coulter was a three-star deputy commissioner heading organizational services and the highest-ranking woman in the department.

Dunn declined to speculate about what position Coulter would take and how that would affect her salary should she remain in the department after Outlaw takes over.

“We’re not going to engage in hypotheticals,” he said.

If Coulter retires, her pension will depend on when she retires.

Pensions are based on the average final compensation, as well as years of credited service, among other things, Dunn said. So if Coulter retired at her current salary, she would receive a larger monthly pension payment.

Coulter is not currently enrolled in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, known as DROP, Dunn said. The program allows city employees to work up to four years while their pension benefits accumulate in an interest-bearing account. When they officially retire, they receive a lump-sum payment that can reach six figures.

During her spell as commissioner, Coulter has made no changes to top department leadership.

Myron Patterson remains the three-star first deputy. Joseph Sullivan, Dennis Wilson and Robin Wimberly also remain two-star deputy commissioners.

But some of the department’s top brass are on their way out.

Patterson, Wilson and Wimberly are enrolled in the city’s DROP program. Patterson’s DROP end date is July 2021; Wilson entered the DROP program in November; and Wimberly will enter the DROP program on Monday.

When Outlaw takes over, she can staff her leadership team of deputy commissioners with her own choices, but they require the approval of the city’s Managing Director Brian Abernathy.

An outsider coming from leading the Portland Police Department in Oregon, Outlaw is not bound to look inside the department for her deputy commissioners. Outlaw, who will earn $285,000 a year, can appoint both civilian and non-civilian deputies.

The last civilian appointed as a deputy was Nola Joyce under former Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.