Joel Fitzgerald, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s choice to be Baltimore’s next police commissioner, has withdrawn his name from consideration.
The Fort Worth, Texas, police department, the force Fitzgerald leads now, made the announcement in a terse tweet early Monday morning, but provided no details.
Pugh’s office issued a statement later in the morning that said Fitzgerald had withdrawn because of his son’s medical emergency.
In her statement, Pugh said she respects Fitzgerald’s decision to withdraw “to devote full attention to his son who is now facing a second brain surgery tomorrow to remove a mass that was discovered late last week.”
Fitzgerald, who would have been Baltimore’s fourth commissioner in a year, had been scheduled for a series of meetings with city council members and community leaders over the weekend and Monday, but cancelled because his son needed emergency surgery.
In a statement released late Monday morning, Fitzgerald said he decided to withdraw after reflecting on “the tremendous outpouring of heartfelt support I received here in Fort Worth over the last few months.”
He said residents expressed their support to him “even before this medical emergency occurred with my son, but it was reinforced thereafter knowing there was a possibility I could leave.”
He said the support never wavered and may have intensified in the last week.
“There is literally nowhere I go in this city of almost 900,000 residents,” the Philadelphia native said, “where someone doesn’t approach me to say first, ‘Hey Chief, your Eagles stink, and by the way, you’re still needed and loved here in Fort Worth.’”
Fitzgerald said he would “now focus on my child’s next bout of brain surgery, and being home with family, my Fort Worth Police Department family...and this awesome community.”
Later Monday Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke issued a statement noting that the city “has been very patient and supportive” of Fitzgerald as he has been involved in the “awkward approval process” in Baltimore.
And while city officials support him as he is dealing with a family emergency, they “look forward to working with him to understand his desire to fully commit to the work here in Fort Worth.”
Pugh's nomination of Fitzgerald was on shaky ground to begin with as her selection process was shrouded in secrecy and city council members, who would have to confirm the nomination, balked when they heard of his selection.
At the same time critics in Baltimore and Fort Worth cast doubt on his record and questioned whether he would be a true reformer, as Baltimore’s force operated under a federal consent decree.
The Baltimore Sun reported last week that Fitzgerald's resume overstated some achievements since he became police chief in Fort Worth in October 2015, including embellishing his role launching a body camera program there and taking credit for the force's ramped-up reporting on racial profiling despite a state law requiring those measures.
Then Saturday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund called for Baltimore to withdraw the nomination for Fitzgerald, the first African-American police chief in Fort Worth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.