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Fort Worth, Texas Police Chief likely to be named new Baltimore Police Commissioner

Posted at 8:25 AM, Oct 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-13 13:57:19-05

Joel Fitzgerald, the Chief of Police in Fort Worth, Texas, is likely to be named the new Baltimore Police Commissioner, reports WFAA/ABC8 Reporter Todd Unger in Dallas/Fort Worth.

The announcement would fit within Mayor Catherine Pugh's announced intentions of naming a new commissioner by the end of October. As of Friday morning, Pugh seems to be sticking to that schedule.

"The process is still underway and no decision has been made as of yet," according to an email from James Bentley, a spokesman for the mayor.

Fitzgerald would become the fourth person to fill the role in Baltimore in the past year, as Kevin Davis began 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 Garry 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.

Baltimore Police Chief Media Spokesman T.J. Smith left the department as well, citing the same departmental squabbles but also the naming of a new commissioner and that leader's imperative to bring in his/her own people as part of why he chose to leave now

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.