Image via the New Orleans Police Department

Baltimore Police Commissioner-Designate Michael S. Harrison will participate in nine community meetings–one in every police district–starting on Feb. 11, weeks before the city council is scheduled to consider his candidacy, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office announced today.

Harrison will become acting commissioner on Feb. 11, the date of the first meeting, which will be held at Forest Park High School from 7-9 p.m.

The rest of the schedule is:

  • Dorothy I. Height Elementary School on Feb. 12 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Cherry Hill Elementary/Middle School on Feb. 13 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Fort Worthington Elementary/Middle School on Feb. 14 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Frederick Douglass High School on Feb. 15 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Wildwood Elementary/Middle School on Feb. 19 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Patterson Park Public Charter School on Feb. 20 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Poly-Western High School on Feb. 21 from 7-9 p.m.
  • Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School on Feb. 22 from 7-9 p.m.

Spanish interpreters will be present at the meetings at Forest Park High School, Patterson Park Public Charter School and Poly-Western High School.

Per WMAR, Harrison met with “about 15 handpicked community leaders” last month, and will have a larger public meeting at the War Memorial Building in the future.

Pugh selected Harrison, the former police chief in New Orleans, early last month after her earlier pick, Joel Fitzgerald of Forth Worth, Texas, withdrew from the process when his son required emergency surgery.

Fitzgerald was due to participate in similar meetings and appear before the council, but those were postponed on Jan. 3 after he learned his son needed a second operation on his brain. The council still held a hearing for public testimony, with almost all Baltimoreans who spoke voting down the nominee.

Pitched as a reformer who could implement new initiatives such as training in constitutional policing and de-escalation, Fitzgerald said that, if selected, he would work to repair relations between the police and community.

A delegation from the council traveled to Texas to vet Fitzgerald, and while they did interview people who supported his work and were sorry to see him go, others raised questions about the effectiveness of his tenure leading the department in Fort Worth. In particular, community leaders and activists had concerns about his handling of the 2016 arrest of an African-American woman, Jacqueline Craig, who was wrestled to the ground by a white officer, William Martin.

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the respective chair and vice chair of the Executive Appointments Committee, Councilmen Robert Stokes and Kristerfer Burnett, made a similar fact-finding trip to New Orleans on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, the results of which have not yet been published.

Like Fitzgerald, Harrison has been sold on his record of departmental change, and he has the added experience of having guided the New Orleans Police Department through a federal consent decree like the one the BPD entered into. A 2018 report by monitors of the agreement said New Orleans police had become a “respected, forward-thinking, reform-minded police agency.” Harrison had said he hopes the department will be in full compliance with Justice Department regulations by 2020.

Unlike Fitzgerald, Harrison has already left his job to pursue leading the Baltimore Police Department. According to WMAR, he’s been scouting out local real estate in the area.

The council’s Executive Appointments Committee is set to have a hearing on Harrison’s nomination on March 4 at 5 p.m., Pugh’s office said.

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...