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Mayor Pugh selects New Orleans Chief as new BPD commissioner

Michael S. Harrison now BPD commissioner-designate
Posted at 9:00 AM, Jan 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-09 07:23:00-05

BALTIMORE — Mayor Pugh has made a new selection for the Baltimore Police Commissioner position one day after her previous pick withdrew from consideration.

Pugh announced Tuesday morning New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael S. Harrison is now the Commissioner designate for the Baltimore Police Department. On Monday her previous pick, Joel Fitzgerald, withdrew from consideration after announcing his son is dealing with some medical issues.

READ MORE: Mayor's police commissioner pick, Joel Fitzgerald, withdraws

Harrison was the original top pick of a panel Mayor Pugh convened this fall to give her advice on the commissioner search. The panel chose Harrison because he had experience working under a consent decree in New Orleans and has recently had success driving down homicides and violent crime in the city.

Pugh sent the following statement on her decision:

“I have informed City Council President Jack Young of my decision to submit to Council members the selection of New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael S. Harrison as the next Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department. Superintendent Harrison has achieved clear, compelling and consistent results in reducing violent crime, implementing a federally-mandated consent decree, increasing police recruitment, introducing advanced technologies, and deploying proactive and effective policing strategies that reflect 21st century, constitutional policing. He will bring not only significant and relevant experience to addressing the challenges of Baltimore, but the insight and sensitivity needed to reestablish essential trust and confidence of citizens in their police officers.”

Pugh says Harrison has officially retired from the New Orleans Police Department which he has served for almost 27 years and has led since 2014. Harrison has held a number of positions within the New Orleans Police Department, including multiple jobs within their Public Integrity Bureau, which investigates criminal and administrative allegations within the police department. There he started as a Sergeant where he was appointed to Lieutenant and later became the Commander of the Special Investigations Division.

RELATED: BPD Commissioner candidate stewarded New Orleans Department through Consent Decree, crime decrease

Harrison plans on participating in a number of meetings with community leaders, neighborhood associations, and more before the formal submission of his nomination to City Council. Those meetings have yet to be determined.

“I’m honored by Mayor Pugh’s confidence in my abilities and approach and look forward to getting to Baltimore in the coming weeks to engage broadly with residents about the challenges to public safety and confidence in their police department,” said Commissioner-designate Harrison in a statement. “My first priority will be to drive meaningful cultural change within the Department such that not only is there a renewed sense of purpose and mission among those sworn to protect and serve, but that citizens’ trust is restored to a new level that enables true collaboration and confidence. Only then can we make sustained progress in reducing violence in close partnership with those who have the most at stake. I am inspired by the approaches Mayor Pugh has introduced to address the root causes of violent crime and disrupt the lure of criminal life among those young people most at risk. I look forward to partnering with her, the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department, and the community to build on the clear momentum underway.”

This new pick comes from a long line of commissioners within the last year. At the start of 2018, Kevin Davis held the top cop position, but was fired by Pugh and replaced by Darry De Sousa. De Sousa then resigned after he was federally charged with not filing his taxes.

Gary Tuggle has been the interim police commissioner since May and was potentially going to be replaced by Joel Fitzgerlad, Pugh's first pick. Fitzgerald withdrew his name on Monday, prompting Pugh to select Harrison as the new commissioner.

Because of this process, many in the City Council are asking for stricter background checks and highlighting what officials should ask Harrison.

Councilman Brandon Scott sent the following statement:

"This morning I was notified that Mayor Pugh has selected New Orleans Police Superintendent Harrison as her designee to be Baltimore's next Police Commissioner. While I still believe that we should have had a more open, inclusive and transparent process I respect the Mayor's decision as it abides by current law. Baltimore needs our next Police Commissioner to be a proven crime fighter with the ability to concurrently reform and restructure the Baltimore Police Department. At first look Superintendent Harrison seems to meet those standards. Once officially nominated Superintendent Harrison will go through the official nomination process that will be led by Chairman Robert Stokes. I still stand by the need for a more transparent process and will be requesting the same amount of information with this nominee as the last. The decision on who shall be next to lead the Baltimore Police Department is much too important to leave any stone unturned. Moreover, I sincerely hope that the voices of Baltimore's citizenry the most important voices of all are heard. Lastly, I will again be requesting that the Baltimore Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation to change the structure of the Baltimore Police Department to help ensure that future Police Commissioner searches and all other items pertaining to the Baltimore Police Department are handled in a better fashion."

The timeline of the next steps for Harrison's confirmation process has not been released at this time.