By J. K. Schmid, AFRO Baltimore staff
True to her word, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh named the successor to interim Baltimore Police Department (BPD) Commissioner Gary Tuggle, shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Dr. Joel Fitzgerald, currently Chief of Police in the city of Fort Worth, Tex., was named during a November 16 press release. His first official press conference in Baltimore was Nov. 26.
The confirmation process comes during an extended period of heightened uncertainty about the future of Baltimore City policing. Commissioner Kevin Davis was fired in January, Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, charged with tax crimes, resigned in May and interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle withdrew his application for commissioner in October.
And there is no guarantee Fitzgerald, who has to be approved by the Baltimore City Council will emerge from the confirmation process as the city’s fifth commissioner since April 2015.
Fitzgerald’s resume has not been released to the public, nor has the mayor’s criteria for what makes Fitzgerald the most suitable candidate.
“[Fitzgerald] is refusing to release his resume, which I interpret as the Mayor’s refusal to provide transparency to the decision surrounding his nomination,” Leo Burroughs, a civil rights advocate and Bolton Hill resident, told the AFRO.
Burroughs recently empaneled a community meeting where members of the BPD were asked questions about how the organization will implement the consent decree and still provide safety for the public. He made the same demand for transparency during that that meeting.
“The mayor seems to be doing everything possible not to do the right thing,” Burroughs said. “Everything possible to resist transparency.”
Criticisms have already been raised by police advocates such as the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Lodge 3, the union that represents BPD officers, sergeants and lieutenants. Fitzgerald leaves a department that gave him a failing grade from his own officers according to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram poll in September 2017.
Burroughs is looking for the City Council to “lay down” in front of this nomination, until Fitzgerald’s quality and character can be made known by the public.
“I’m going to ask Eric Costello and others, and I would ask my neighbors and friends in Baltimore City to do the same thing. If the city councilperson representing your district, does not demand the same things that I’m demanding of the mayor, namely, complete and open transparency revelations, as to his resume and background investigations, that we certainly not reelect that city council person in the 2020 election,” Burroughs said.
Two years is a long wait to hold anyone accountable, but Burroughs expects a push via lawsuits in order to ensure that the spirit and letter of the consent decree make structural institutional change within the BPD.
Other factions in Baltimore City and broader state politics remain silent about the Fitzgerald nomination.
Burroughs questions whether Pugh is, “pandering to the interests of Mike Miller, or Mike Busch, the speaker of the House of Delegates, or the Greater Baltimore Committee,” Burroughs said. “They’re the rich folks who control the economy of Baltimore… because she has the support of the rich White establishment.”