Joel Fitzgerald withdraws name from Baltimore police commissioner job

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Joel Fitzgerald. Image via the Forth Worth Police Department.

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald has withdrawn his name from consideration to become Baltimore police commissioner, the Fort Worth Police Department tweeted this morning.

Fitzgerald was due to appear in Baltimore over the weekend to meet with community members and tonight at a hearing with the City Council’s Executive Appointments Committee, but those were postponed on Jan. 3 after Fitzgerald’s son required emergency surgery.

In a statement, Mayor Catherine Pugh said Fitzgerald will remain in Texas to be with his son, who is having a second brain surgery tomorrow “to remove a mass that was discovered late last week.”

“Our fervent prayers are with him and his family during what is unquestionably a troubling and stressful period for them,” she said.

Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle and his command staff will continue to run the department’s day-to-day operations.

“I will, of course, be communicating further on the process to select Baltimore’s permanent Police Commissioner,” Pugh pledged.

Fitzgerald, in his own statement, indicated the support he received from the community played as much of a part in his decision as his son’s medical problems.

From the outset, the road to confirming Fitzgerald had many bumps, with critics of Pugh’s selection process calling for greater transparency and community involvement.

Fitzgerald’s name first came to light in October by the Twitter account @bmoreprojects, who posted that the Forth Worth chief and former head of the police department in Allentown, Pennsylvania was the front-runner for the job. Fort Worth Mayor Mayor Betsy Price wished Fitzgerald well in his new post, but Pugh’s office told local media the selection process was still underway.

Weeks later, Fitzgerald was announced as the mayor’s choice anyway.

Touting his status as a reform-minded outsider, Fitzgerald said in a November press conference at City Hall that he would work to rebuild trust in the Baltimore community.

“I think that we can overcome a lot of the perceptions and realities of the way we’ve done business in the past by making sure that we bring these things to bear, whether it’s procedural justice training, de-escalation–things that you’ve already engaged in and things that need to be reinforced,” he said.

But the early criticisms about transparency were only compounded when Fitzgerald, through City Solicitor Andre Davis, declined to release his resume to The Sun. The City Council, tasked with vetting and voting on Pugh’s nominee, released it anyway.

Last week, a delegation from the council that went down to Texas to interview citizens, local officials and police brass about Fitzgerald released a report that painted two different pictures of the chief.

Some community members and faith leaders praised his efforts to bring de-escalation and implicit bias training to Fort Worth, while others said it was all overblown. One former cop, who was demoted for his alleged role in leaking information about an officer who aggressively arrested an African-American woman, called Fitzgerald a “master manipulator.”

The Sun then reported Fitzgerald overstated his accomplishments while leading the Fort Worth department.

Pugh called a press conference at 2:45 p.m. to discuss Fitzgerald’s announcement, but cancelled it 20 minutes beforehand.

This post will be updated.

Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel

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 Business Journal, b and others. Prior to joining Baltimore Fishbowl, he was an editor at City Paper from 2012 to 2017. He can be reached at [email protected]
Brandon Weigel


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