While it took Mayor Catherine Pugh less than 24-hours to name a new nominee to be Baltimore City’s next Police Commissioner; it took less than two hours since that announcement for the members of the Baltimore City Council to demand information regarding her new selection.
Yesterday, news broke that the Mayor’s nominee for police commissioner, Joel Fitzgerald – the current police chief in Fort Worth, Texas – was withdrawing his name from consideration after a sudden illness overtook his son that reportedly required immediate surgery. And while city leaders and citizens alike were questioning who would be the best qualified candidate to replace Fitzgerald; Mayor Pugh and her administration were busy confirming that person’s acceptance of the position.
His name: Michael Harrison. The current police superintendent for the city of New Orleans, reportedly accepted Mayor Pugh’s offer to become Baltimore’s next top cop (upon confirmation by the Baltimore City Council) and resigned his position in New Orleans.
“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,” Mayor Pugh stated in a statement released earlier today.
However, members of the City Council don’t seem willing to accept the mayor’s latest selection with open arms, as numerous members have made statements questioning the lack of transparency in this entire process; and Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young, issued a press release calling for a long list of required documents the council would need before considering Mr. Harrison.
In the letter sent to Mayor Pugh, Young states that while he knows the Mayor gave all due consideration to her selection of Superintendent Harrison to be Baltimore’s next police commissioner, with a real commitment to openess and transparency; that it was still incumbent on the council to “fully vet” the mayor’s nominee.
Referencing City Council Rule 14-1, which states: “From time to time, the President [may] submit to the Mayor a letter specifying the background and related documentation and other information requested to accompany nominations made to the City Council”; President Young laid out eight documents related to Harrison’s background, and ten questions related to the job itself that vary in nature, that he request be given before any confirmation vote shall take place.
Included in Young’s request are that Mr. Harrison submit to the Council, a copy of his resume and any completed application materials submitted pursuant to this position, though it was reported that Mr. Harrison did not apply for the position of police commissioner when it was made available (though her selection committee selected Mr. Harrison as the best qualified candidate), which ultimately led to the Mayor selecting Fitzgerald over him in the first place.
Young’s demands also request that he give a list of any civil or criminal cases Mr. Harrison may be a party to, any and all investigative reports conducted by the administration in relation to Mr. Harrison’s background, as well as copies of his personnel files from the New Orleans Police Department. The questions listed include whether or not Mr. Harrison would make himself available for multiple meetings with city residents, at locations across the city; to describe his ability to implement community-based policing practices; how he would address institutional racism and bias within the department and the communities of Baltimore; and his ability to implement a top to bottom policy review change as well as data-driven policing practices.
Young goes on to ask Mr. Harrison to describe his familiarity with the consent decree that is currently implemented here in Baltimore, and his commitment to full and effective compliance with the requirements spelled out in the consent decree. Harrison comes from a town and police department that was also under a consent decree, so that will be something he should be familiar with. And how we plans to address and reduce crime, particularly violent crime, that adheres to the United States Constitution and the laws that govern this nation, is also something of interest to Young and his council colleagues.
Young’s colleague on the council, and the Chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, Councilman Brandon Scott, also issued a written statement in response to the mayor’s recent selection of Harrison, stating:
“While I still believe that we should have had a more open, inclusive and transparent [selection] 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 city’s police department. At first glance, Superintendent Harrison seems to meet those standards…however, I still stand by the need to for a more transparent process and will be requesting the same amount of information with this nominee as we did with the last. More importantly, I hope the voices of Baltimore’s citizenry, the most important voices of all, are heard throughout this confirmation process.”
Scott also said that he will again be requesting the city’s state delegation in the Maryland General Assembly, scheduled to convene for the start of the 90-day legislative session tomorrow, to pass legislation to change the structure of the BCPD in order to help ensure that future police commissioner searches are handled in a better fashion.
**DMVDaily News will be hosting a live-streamed Public Safety Town Hall, in conjunction with members of the community from across the City of Baltimore, on Monday, January 21st (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Union Baptist Church, in order to hear from local stakeholders regarding how we move forward with whoever is confirmed as the city’s next Police Commissioner.