The Fort Worth Texas Police Chief was named as Mayor Catherine Pugh's selection to serve as the Baltimore's new Police Commissioner, an spokesman for the Mayor's Office confirmed Friday.
Today, I am announcing a new beginning at police headquarters and presenting the person I believe is best suited to lead the way forward. With the selection of Joel Fitzgerald as the next police commissioner of the @BaltimorePolice https://t.co/CpBuwDvcOG
— Mayor Catherine Pugh (@MayorPugh50) November 16, 2018
WFAA, the ABC station in Dallas/Fort Worth, had reported Fitzgerald's selection prior to Pugh's confirmation.
The Texas station reported Fitzgerald was leaving the Fort Worth department and heading to Baltimore October, but Pugh would not confirm the story at the time, simply saying she was still vetting candidates, and had her list down to a few candidates.
DEVELOPING: what we first reported nearly a month ago IS happening. FW chief is out & going to Baltimore.
— Todd Unger (@ToddWFAA8) November 16, 2018
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the city's police officers' union, issued a statement about the selection.
"Along with the citizens of Baltimore, our membership learned of the appointment of Chief Joel Fitzgerald as our new Police Commissioner through local media accounts late this afternoon. We were not asked to be a part of the search for this important position and as a result, know only as much about Chief Fitzgerald as can be found via a web search. As such, we cannot speak to his appointment; however, myself and members of our FOP leadership intend to perform our own due diligence when we travel to Fort Worth, Allentown, and Philadelphia over the next week to meet with union officials, and other law enforcement officers, in each of these cities." - Mike Mancuso, FOP Lodge 3 President
Fitzgerald would become the fourth person to fill the role in Baltimore in the past year, as Kevin Davis began in 2018 as the commissioner but was dismissed by Pugh in the face of frustrating crime trends.
Daryl DeSousa took the position next, but when charges were brought against him for failing to pay income tax, he resigned in April. Former Baltimore Police Detective and DEA Agent Gary Tuggle took the Interim Commissioner position, saying he was interested in the permanent job, but amid recent turmoil in the department, Tuggle pulled his name from the running.
According to Fitzgerald's bio page on the Fort Worth Police Department's website, he became Chief of Police in October of 2015, overseeing a department of 1,700 sworn officers and 500 civilian employees. The department provides services to a city of 874,168 people with an annual budget that exceeds $300 million dollars.
A native of Philadelphia, Fitzgerald joined that city's police department in 1992, serving for 17 years before being selected as the Chief of Police of Missouri City, Texas in 2009. In December of 2013, he moved on to become the Chief of Police in Allentown, Pa. He was the first minority police chief of that city.
"In each position, Chief Fitzgerald demonstrated innate leadership traits while being instrumental in those agencies becoming benchmarks for other jurisdictions seeking community problem solving, engage in intelligence-led violent crime abatement, to obtain accreditation, and that dedicate themselves to the enhancement of procedural justice," the website says. "He has been a reformer who understands how to evolve, and refines strategies in a manner consistent with the tenets of 21st Century Policing."
During his time at the helm of the department, a 22-year veteran police sergeant was fired after a use-of-force review showed misconduct captured on body camera footage during a 2017 incident, ABC News reports. While responding to a domestic disturbance call, the sergeant became impatient with a woman and ordered a younger officer to Tase her, the article says.
In September, an undercover police officer was killed after being shot in the head trying to break up a robbery of a bar, the Associated Press reported.
Fitzgerald's time in Allentown was not without controversy, as well.
The Morning Call, a newspaper based in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley, reports that Fitzgerald's son Christopher pointed a gun at two undercover Lehigh County detectives during a traffic stop in 2014.
The paper also reported on an uptick in police brutality complaints under Fitzgerald's leadership, with at least eight lawsuits alleging misconduct filed against the department. In 2014, the department topped more than $2 million in overtime spending, the Morning Call reported.
Fitzgerald holds a Bachelor of Arts from Villanova University, and a Master of Business Administration and a Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration from Eastern University.
We will continue to update this story.