BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore City Council will start the confirmation process for Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, who Mayor Catherine Pugh has chosen to be the city’s new police commissioner.
Several key members of the council are going to extraordinary measures to personally vet Fitzgerald — Mayor Catherine Pugh’s choice to be the next police commissioner.
“We have to make sure he is the right person for this important role in Baltimore,” said Councilman Brandon Scott, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.
City Council President Jack Young, Councilman Robert Stokes, Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, and Councilman Brandon Scott will travel to Fort Worth Dec 9 through Dec 11 to vet Fitzgerald.
While in Fort Worth, they will meet with “members of the clergy, citizen advocates, business leaders, local law enforcement officials, elected representatives and prominent civil rights attorneys.”
“We have to do our own work as council members to check out his background,” Young told WJZ.
Fitzgerald’s tenure in Fort Worth has not been without controversy.
Mayor Pugh has defended her choice against critics who say the selection process was too secretive.
She asked people to “trust her to do her job” at an event over the weekend. “The next commissioner, we turned him upside down, we shook him out, we turned him back around, and then we looked at him again to make sure we got the right person for this city,” Pugh said.
She is expected to formally place him before the council on December 6th.
The council plans to hold hearings—including giving the public a chance to provide input—the week of January 7th.
Council members must decide whether to confirm Fitzgerald by January 28th.
Fitzgerald can serve in an interim basis until then, but the council’s approval is needed for the city to provide him with a permanent contract.
“I definitely don’t have what I need to come to that determination yet,” said Councilman Eric Costello.
Scott said current law allowed the mayor to make her choice without input from others. He said state law should change to allow more transparency.
He also said he has not gotten information on who else was on the mayor’s short list got the job.
Scott also plans to question people in other cities where Fitzgerald has worked, including Philadelphia, where Fitzgerald was on the force for two decades.
Gary Tuggle has been serving as the interim Commissioner since Darryl De Sousa stepped down in May after facing federal tax charges.
De Sousa had only been on the job for four months, following Pugh’s firing of Commissioner Kevin Davis.
“Mr. Fitzgerald may end up being a great police commissioner, but one person cannot fix that department,” Scott said.