Baltimore Police Commissioner-designate Joel Fitzgerald made his first public appearance Monday at city hall. Fitzgerald stood alongside Mayor Catherine Pugh answered questions from the media, and WYPR’s Dominique Maria Bonessi spoke to Morning Edition Host Nathan Sterner.
NATHAN: What prompted Fitzgerald’s appearance at city hall today?
DOMINIQUE: Fitzgerald was at city hall to meet with Baltimore City state representatives and city council members. Last night he met with head of the council’s public safety committee Brandon Scott at 7:30 P.M. to drive through high crime areas of the city and have a conversation with Fitzgerald. And today he is still in meeting with council members like southeast district councilman Zeke Cohen and northern district councilman Bill Henry.
NATHAN: What did Fitzgerald say about his qualifications for the job?
DOMINIQUE: Here is what Fitzgerald had to say about why he thinks he’s the best person for the job.
FITZGERALD: “I think as a police chief. A tenured police chief that I have some of the qualifications and characteristics of someone that that will move the department forward and work well with the community.”
DOMINIQUE: Following that he mentioned that he knew the department was in need of stable and steady leadership following the quick departure of former-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, and his desire to work with the community to rebuild trust.
NATHAN: What did Fitzgerald say were some of his first priorities when and if he does start as police commissioner following the city council hearings?
DOMINIQUE: Fitzgerald said his main priority would be to shuffle up leadership.
FITZGERALD: “Again I have to assess the people that we have in the organization. There are probably folks in the organization that probably have never had an opportunity to lead.”
DOMINIQUE: He said he’s looking to see what sort of expertise and talent each of the officers bring to the table to then figure out where they are best suited to serve. He also praised Mayor Pugh’s violence reduction program, and said he would continue with her course of action to reduce crime.
NATHAN: Last week you reported on Fort Worth Pastor Michael Bell and how he was on the committee to select Fitzgerald as the police chief in Fort Worth, but he was also one of the first to call for Fitzgerald’s resignation. Bell said Fitzgerald was bad at crisis management, how did Fitzgerald respond to that?
DOMINIQUE: Of course Fitzgerald was on the defensive in saying that there were a few people out of a city of 900,000 people that didn’t like the way he did things.
FITZGERALD: “But what I will tell you is that there are many many more people in that city that will disagree with the crisis management aspect of management that I employ.”
DOMINIQUE: Fitzgerald went on to say that there are many people in the city that recognize the changes that were brought about in his tenure as police chief. When pressed on the steps he would take to manage a crisis he said he wouldn’t go into hypotheticals and that he’s no stranger to managing situations that are uncomfortable.
NATHAN: Councilmembers yesterday began asking the City Solicitor Andre Davis to release Fitzgerald’s background check completed by Pugh’s office, but they have not responded. Fitzgerald has the ability to release his own background check to council members if he chooses to do so. Will he?
DOMINIQUE: We didn’t get a real clear yes or no on that answer. Here is what he had to say.
FITZGERALD: “There is nothing that they cannot find through any means. By way of the website. That’s not out there about Joel Fitzgerald and how I do business. That information is readily accessible, so I’m going to allow them to do their research.”
NATHAN: Fitzgerald is still serving as police chief in Fort Worth while applying for this job as police commissioner is that typical for a police commissioner appointee?
DOMINIQUE: No, as we know from previous commissioner selections the candidate typically gets to work as soon as the mayor confirms them. And then the city council votes on their appointment. But Pugh is doing it differently this time to give the council and the public more time to vet Fitzgerald before he starts in the position. Pugh will not be confirming Fitzgerald officially until December 6th to give council members two council meetings to cast their final votes. Also with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays coming up, it’s delaying the timeline of the council appointment hearings and final vote in January.