By Stephen Janis, Special to the AFRO
The continuing turmoil plaguing the city’s efforts to select a new police commissioner hit a major snag today, when Mayor Catherine Pugh’s pick Ft. Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald formally withdrew his name from consideration to be the city’s next top cop.
In a written statement sent to the AFRO Pugh said Fitzgerald’s decision came amid an ongoing family crisis involving his son.
“After a lengthy discussion with Chief Joel Fitzgerald, I respect his decision to withdraw his candidacy for Baltimore Police Commissioner in order to devote his full attention to his son who is now facing 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,” Pugh stated.
The move came after a contentious public hearing over the weekend where residents expressed misgivings about Fitzgerald’s record and inaccuracies in his resume, which overstated the decrease in crime in Ft. Worth during his tenure as first reported by the Baltimore Sun.
Fitzgerald’s withdrawal also follows pushback from key members of the city council, including Councilman Brandon Scott who told the AFRO he had reservations about Fitzgerald’s ability to run a department currently under federal consent decree and battling record high crime.
“What I need to see is someone who is a proven crime fighter, who has the ability and the wherewithal to be on the same level of importance with reform and restructuring,” Scott said.
“And as of yet, I haven’t seen that.”
Fitzgerald was scheduled to appear before the city council today for a formal hearing before the executive appointments committee. But, that meeting was postponed when he canceled the appearance citing the emergency surgery for his son.
The announcement leaves the city’s beleaguered police department without a permanent leader for the foreseeable future. The abrupt withdrawal also comes after the city council spent $5,000 traveling to Ft. Worth to vet Fitzgerald by conferring with the residents there.
Currently, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), is headed by interim police commissioner Gary Tuggle. Tuggle, a former DEA agent, withdrew himself from consideration for the top job late last year.
In 2018, Pugh’s previous pick, Darryl De Sousa resigned after he was indicted for failing to file several years of tax returns. In December, DeSousa pled guilty to three count of failing to file federal tax returns.
It is unclear what happens next. City officials said they had considered dozens of candidates during a nationwide search, but refused to release a short list of who was under consideration.