Joel Fitzgerald. Image via the Forth Worth Police Department.

The rumors were true, it turns out: Baltimore’s next police commissioner will be Joel Fitzgerald, who most recently served as the chief of the Fort Worth Police Department in Texas.

The Sun and WBAL-TV reported the news this afternoon, quoting Mayor Catherine Pugh directly. Pugh also announced his appointment via an op-ed in the newspaper.

Of Fitzgerald, she wrote, “He is known for his hands-on approach, his ability to listen and establish effective, trusted partnerships with community leaders, residents and essential stakeholders who are also working to bring about positive and sustainable change.”

Fort Worth’s police department has roughly 1,700 sworn officers, according to its website, which is smaller than Baltimore’s estimated police force of “about 2,300 to 2,400,” per a recent estimate from Pugh.

Fitzgerald began his law enforcement career as a police officer in Philadelphia, and served as police commissioner in Missouri City, Texas, and Allentown, Pennsylvania, before leaving for his current job in Fort Worth in 2015. He was reportedly also considered for the top cop job in Wichita, Kansas, that year, but turned it down.

He’ll be Baltimore city’s fourth police commissioner in 2018 alone. Pugh fired Kevin Davis in January, and his replacement, Darryl De Sousa, resigned after being federally charged for failing to file his tax returns. Gary Tuggle, one of De Sousa’s deputies, took over in an acting capacity and had originally committed to applying for the permanent job as police commissioner.

However, he withdrew his name from the running early last month, saying he could not stay with the department for the “five to seven years” he estimated would be needed to turn things around.

Fitzgerald would have been a surprise pick for the job, if not for a telegraphed situation last month in which Fort Worth’s mayor, responding to rumors from local community activist Kinji Scott and Twitter user @bmoreprojects, announced to local media in the Texas city that Fitzgerald was leaving to take a job here. A spokesperson for the mayor in Fort Worth later clarified that she was simply responding to the tweets. Those tweets, it turns out, were correct.

Scott, for his part, later told The Sun that Pugh called him and “confirmed that this is the guy she picked and she would have to go with someone else now that the information is out.”

Pugh had not confirmed Fitzgerald as her pick for weeks, and pushed back her announcement of the new police commissioner, saying she wouldn’t “be rushed.”

It’s not official yet. The Baltimore City Council must still confirm Fitzgerald for the job. Pugh told The Sun he’ll start working here after Thanksgiving.

Some in Fort Worth have raised concerns about his time there over the last three years. A survey reported on last year by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram indicated nearly 84 percent of cops there said morale has declined in the department since he became police chief. Earlier in 2017, pastors there called for his resignation after a scandal in which he demoted two police officials after they allegedly leaked body camera footage of another officer who had made a controversial arrest.

Count Baltimore’s police union, FOP Lodge 3, as skeptical of Pugh’s process in picking Fitzgerald.

Statement from President Mike Mancuso re: appointment of Chief Joel Fitzgerald as Baltimore Police Commissisoner

— Baltimore City FOP (@FOP3) November 16, 2018

This story has been updated.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...