Police Commissioner Reports Overblown? | WYPR

Police Commissioner Reports Overblown?

Oct 19, 2018

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald
Credit Fort Worth Police

Does Baltimore have a new police commissioner or not? Good question. It seemed like it Friday morning, but things kept shifting all day.

It started Thursday night when the Twitter account, @BmoreProjects, tweeted, "The mayor's pick for Baltimore's next police commissioner #JoelFitzgerald."

A local reporter in Dallas showed the tweet to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, and asked if Fitzgerald,the Fort Worth chief, was leaving for Baltimore.

Based on the tweet, Price told the Dallas Morning News reporter that it appeared her chief was leaving to become the top cop in Baltimore.

But a spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she is continuing to vet candidates and had not made a final decision as of Friday morning. Pugh has said she intends to name the new commissioner at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Fort Worth Police acknowledged that Fitzgerald had applied for the Baltimore job, but had not submitted a letter of resignation to their department.

Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the council's public safety comittee, said the council was not involved in the selection process of candidates for the position.

Background on Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was chief of the Allentown, PA, force before he went to Fort Worth. He was seen as a reformer in both jobs.

He came under sharp criticism from the Fort Worth Police Officers' Association as well as community residents for his responses to separate incidents. 

In one, he fired an officer involved in a shooting, even though charges against the officer had been dropped. Shortly after that, the police association charged that department morale was at its lowest point in more than 20 years.

He sparked community outrage after a 2016 incident in which a black woman had called police because a white neighbor had allegedly assaulted and choked her seven-year-old son. The white officer who responded to the scene tackled and arrested the woman, her daughter and another woman, but did nothing to the man who allegedly attacked the woman's son.

Fitzgerald suspended that officer for 10 days without pay, but demoted two officers involved in leaking body camera footage of the incident.

Fitzgerald is a member of the Major Cities Chief's Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.