Fort Worth

NAACP calls for Baltimore mayor to withdraw Fort Worth police chief from commissioner job

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald
Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald Star-Telegram archives

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has asked that Baltimore’s mayor withdraw her nomination of Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald for Baltimore’s open police commissioner job.

“Fitzgerald’s record and the process used to select him gives us no confidence that he is the commissioner #Baltimore needs,” the group said on Twitter, adding that “Baltimore deserves a say in who will protect its residents.”

If confirmed, Fitzgerald would be the city’s fourth police commissioner in the past year, and the fifth in the past four years.

The group wrote a letter to the Baltimore City Council Executive Appointments Committee Members that asked them to urge Mayor Catherine Pugh to withdraw her nomination of Fitzgerald.

“There has been much turnover at the helm of the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), which is now under a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to address documented violations of federal laws by police officers, including unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests, excessive use of force, and enforcement strategies that resulted in unjustified racial disparities.,” the group said.

They added that the next commissioner needs to have a track record “for advancing effective public safety strategies in a manner that is fair and nondiscriminatory; the new commissioner must lead with integrity, vision, and a commitment to officer accountability.”

If the selection process moves forward, the group said they will submit questions for council members to present to Fitzgerald during a confirmation hearing. He was scheduled to have a confirmation hearing this week, but it was postponed because of a family emergency.

This letter comes after the Baltimore Sun found that Fitzgerald overstated some of his accomplishments in Allentown and Fort Worth on his résumé.

Fitzgerald declined to comment on Sunday.

In the letter, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund submitted questions they want Fitzgerald to answer:

What is the candidate’s experience and commitment to reducing crime, particularly violent crime, in a nondiscriminatory manner?

What is the candidate’s experience in and commitment to holding officers accountable for the excessive use of force?

How will the candidate identify and address corruption in the Baltimore Police Department?

What is the candidate’s commitment to full and effective compliance with the federal consent decree in U.S. v. Police Department of Baltimore City, et al?

Taking questions after formally announcing her bid for re-election on Thursday, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said Fitzgerald acted on his own in applying for the Baltimore job, and she didn’t know details about his future plans.

“He’s an incredible man, “ Price said. “He stepped into a very difficult situation and in my opinion handled it very well. There’s not a big city chief around that doesn’t have issues.”

Star-Telegram reporter Luke Ranker contributed to this report

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.
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