Saying it was in “the interest of transparency,” City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Robert Stokes (D-12th District), chairman of the Executive Appointments Committee, released the resume packet for Joel Fitzgerald, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s nominee for commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department.
You can read it here.
Previously, news organizations and council members asked for Fitzgerald’s resume and background investigation used to select the current Fort Worth police chief to head Baltimore’s beleaguered department. Fitzgerald, through City Solicitor Andre Davis, declined to release his resume; the city’s top lawyer said it was protected from a Maryland Public Information Act request because it’s considered a confidential personnel document.
Young called his and Stokes’ decision to release the files a “small but unprecedented step.” The councilmen did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the move.
It’s not clear if the council will get the results of Fitzgerald’s full background investigation when members begin hearings on his nomination early next year.
As Baltimore Fishbowl reported two weeks ago, an older copy of Fitzgerald’s resume, from when he was applying for his current job in Texas, was readily available on the Fort Worth government’s website.
In it, Fitzgerald touted his ability to increase accountability and credibility in previous stops leading the departments in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for 21 months and Missouri City, Texas, for five years.
An Allentown Morning Call report from 2015, around the time Fitzgerald was considering the top job in Wichita, Kansas (he ultimately turned it down) said the department was “dogged by complaints of police brutality during Joel Fitzgerald’s tenure as chief,” and that there were at least eight lawsuits against the department alleging misconduct the year before.
Writing about his time in Fort Worth, beginning in October 2015, Fitzgerald describes the department as a “national model for procedural/restorative justice” due to its participation in the U.S. Justice Department’s National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. (The city was one of six picked seven months before Fitzgerald took office).
A 2017 interim status report from the DOJ found the entire department had undergone 16 hours of training on the theory and practice of procedural justice, and some officers received eight-hour sessions on implicit bias. The department was also set to launch a series of neighborhood listening sessions.
In his resume, Fitzgerald goes on to write that during his time managing the department of 2,200 employees (about 1,700 of them sworn officers), he reduced overall crime and violent crime numbers in the face of budget cuts, initiated the largest body-worn camera program in the state and integrated de-escalation and “sanctity of life” into officer training.
Community activists in Fort Worth have raised concerns about a viral arrest in which a white officer tackled an African-American woman and her daughter who had actually called police for help, and criticized Fitzgerald for waiting two years to fire an officer who shot a man holding a barbecue fork (the officer was tried for aggravated assault, and the case ended with a hung jury).
Within the department, a 2017 survey of 465 officers gave Fitzgerald low marks and found many officers questioned his handling of critical situations. More than 80 percent said officers were not disciplined by the same standards “irrespective of race, rank or seniority.”
The nomination of Fitzgerald here in Baltimore started with the news leaking out in October, which Pugh denied, only to formalize the pick in mid-November. Otherwise, the process has been shrouded in secrecy, with calls from the council and residents for more transparency.
The Sun today published a deep-dive into the “secretive” commissioner search, revealing a panel of police executives in Florida initially suggested someone who didn’t apply, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison.
Fitzgerald was also considered a strong candidate, and Pugh told the paper she had been considering him for months after an hour-long meeting at a police chiefs conference in Tennessee.
As one source put it, “[Pugh] had landed on Fitzgerald and that was the end of the story.”
Representatives from the council–Young, Stokes, Vice President Sharon Green Middleton and Councilman Brandon Scott–are scheduled to go to Texas on a fact-finding mission beginning Dec. 9.
So far, Fitzgerald has only appeared in public once since being nominated, holding a press conference at City Hall on Nov. 25; until the confirmation process begins, he said he’ll continue serving in Texas. During the press briefing, he said he would look to implement some of the same changes made in Fort Worth and methods that have worked in other cities to rebuild trust within the community here.
“I think we have a very great opportunity to mend some of the broken fences, so to speak, that have happened over the last few years,” he said.
When the subject of his resume and personnel files came up, Fitzgerald stood by his record and said there’s plenty of information “out there about Joel Fitzgerald and how I do business.”
After today, there’s one more piece.
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