Baltimore's mayor has chosen the Fort Worth police chief as her nominee to lead the city's troubled force, seeking to reign in a soaring pace of homicides and boost public trust in a tattered department.
Mayor Catherine Pugh on Friday picked Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, saying he's led a large police department and was "well versed on training and community engagement." Her spokesman confirmed that she expects Fitzgerald will start working as acting leader in coming days.
He will need to be confirmed by the Baltimore City Council.
Recent years have been tumultuous for Baltimore's police department, where upheaval and leadership instability has become the norm. Fitzgerald would be the fourth leader this year alone.
Fitzgerald joined the Fort Worth police as chief in 2015.
Soon after Fitzgerald arrived in North Texas, he talked about the role his police department would play: “Sometimes it’s more than being the occupying force. Sometimes it’s involving ourselves in the fabric of the community. ... And that’s one thing that I promise in my time here is that we engage the community members actively, that we listen. And we build an inclusive Fort Worth Police Department.”
In late 2016, a viral video of a white Fort Worth police officer forcefully arresting a black woman and her daughters in December put a spotlight on Fitzgerald. The officer was suspended for 10 days without pay. Fitzgerald said the suspension was "significant," and he asked the officer to go back into the community when the suspension ended "to repair relationships."
"We are not sanctioning bad behavior... People make mistakes. We have levels of mistakes that every police officer makes," Fitzgerald said in January 2017. "Some things deserve punishment; some do not. Some deserve termination and some do not."