Fitzgerald withdraws as city’s next police commissioner

Rumors that Pugh's next selection could be the city's first female

As Baltimore City citizens and politicians alike await the outcome of what is being reported as a serious illness that led to an immediate operation for the son of the pending police commissioner; others are doubting that Joel Fitzgerald will continue with his appointment process, believing that the recent news is merely a precursor to his ultimate resignation – before he ever got hired.

*And as we were set to post this article, it became official, Mr. Fitzgerald has in fact withdrew his name from consideration, leaving Baltimore in peril once again!

And word is that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has been considering a possible back-up plan for who she should select in case Fitzgerald does withdraw his name from consideration, which he just has; and that person is rumored to be the city’s first female police commissioner.

After taking office in December 2016, following a contentious election and almost two years into a violent pattern that began with the city uprising following the death of Freddie Gray; Mayor Pugh made public safety her staple policy. However, after a year in, she decided to fire the city’s Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis, as homicides exceeded 300 for a third straight year and violent crime continued to escalate.

Her selection to proceed Davis was a 30-year police veteran with plenty of community and departmental support. Darryl DeSousa, the 53-year old New York native who had moved to Baltimore in the 1980’s to attend Morgan State University, was hailed by citizens and politicians alike as a remarkable choice to lead the department out of the crisis it found itself in, along with having to operate under a federally enforced consent decree.

However, it only took a few months before DeSousa was set aside due to charges being filed against the city’s top cop for failing to pay federal and state taxes for three years. The personable commander, whose confirmation went through with ease in a 14-1 vote by the members of the City Council in February 2018.

DeSousa was the first commissioner to have come up through the ranks of the department since Frederick Bealefeld III was selected by former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon in 2007. It was the Dixon/Bealefeld crime plan, along with the plan’s architect former deputy police commissioner Anthony ‘Tony’ Barksdale, that ultimately led to the city’s lowest crime and homicide rate in the past thirty years. But DeSousa was never able to even get started, having served only three months before the charges of tax evasion arose, leading to his suspension and ultimate resignation.

Next up was a former city cop who had served with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) before being tapped as deputy police commissioner by Commissioner DeSousa, was tapped by Pugh to serve as interim police commissioner while she put forth a national search for the city’s next top cop. This process became extremely secretive, causing strife amongst those in the City Council and community leaders from across the city, who felt the administration should have been more open with the selection process.

Promising to have a nominee named by Halloween 2018, the date came and went without the administration naming someone for the council to approve. It was later revealed via Twitter by the Mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, that their police commander was leaving to become Baltimore’s next top cop. The Pugh administration initially denied those reports, only to officially name Mr. Fitzgerald a few weeks later. The former Philadelphia police officer, who led the Allentown, Pennsylvania police force (2013-2015) before going to Fort Worth to become their commander, has been a questionable candidate for commissioner by many who have yet to meet the man. Now, he has withdrew his name from consideration due to his son’s sudden illness.

“Children are parents most valued asset or possession, so I can certainly understand his decision,” said Councilman Brandon Scott, the chairman of the city council’s Public Safety Committee. Scott says that nobody should be surprised by this shocking withdrawal, since “the Pugh administration has fumbled this process more than the Ravens did during yesterday’s playoff game”.

“I hope that the administration now has a more open and transparent selection process so we can get the transformational leader we need as Baltimore’s next police commissioner,” Scott says. “We need a proven crime-fighter that can simultaneously reform and restructure the BCPD.”

Council members such as Zeke Cohen, who were given a few minutes to meet with the commissioner nominee, were disturbed by the fact that they were unable to receive a thorough background report on Fitzgerald during his time at these different police forces. The Mayor instead released a highly redacted version of his background, which Fitzgerald refused to offer up willingly to members such as Cohen.

“I asked him simply to voluntarily give me access to his background with redactions, and he couldn’t even do that, telling me to submit a Freedom of Information request; which gave me pause,” Cohen said recently during his appearance on the DMVDaily Radio Show.

And while the Mayor had set up several brief meet and greets with Fitzgerald in East and West Baltimore this weekend, they were all postponed due to a sudden emergency that the Texas resident said arose just the other day. Reportedly, Fitzgerald’s son suddenly fell while walking, and was brought in for emergency surgery ahead of him leaving to attend the Baltimore meetings.

Now, with the withdrawal of Fitzgerald as the city’s next police commissioner, people are starting to question and speculate as to who Mayor Pugh is considering now. And that person is said to be a former city police commander and a current Major at the city’s Sheriff’s Office, Sabrina Tapp-Harper – who submitted her name to the Pugh administration during the national search that ultimately led to Fitzgerald’s selection.

Major Tapp-Harper, has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Coppin State University, as well as a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. The 51-year old currently commands the domestic violence unit of the sheriff’s office, and held multiple command positions during her time with the city’s Police Department, including being commander of the Northern District, as well as commanding the Special Victims Unit.

And while Fitzgerald’s nomination came with plenty of questions, making his appointment questionable at best; Tapp-Harper is a Baltimore native that has a ton of community support, not to mention her nomination would make her the first female to ever lead the city’s Police Department. Also being considered for the post, as a back-up, is the city’s former deputy commissioner whose crime plan helped lead to historic crime reductions, Commander Barksdale.

It was reported by DMVDaily just a few weeks back that Barksdale is currently under consideration to become the city’s next Director for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, and it’s more likely that Mayor Pugh would select Tapp-Harper over Barksdale due to his association with former Mayor Dixon and the historic nature of Tapp-Harper’s selection, making is less likely for the council not to confirm her selection.

Councilman Scott would not speculate as to who would be the best choice for that role, also hearing the rumors about Tapp-Harper and Barksdale. But says whoever it is needs to be open and transparent with members of the City Council, something Fitzgerald was not. (Scott will be the featured guest on tonight’s DMVDaily Radio Show, scheduled to air LIVE on www.dmvdaily.news from 5:00-6:30 p.m. to discuss this breaking news)

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