FORT WORTH, Texas — Joel Fitzgerald has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Baltimore police commissioner position almost two months after a city spokesperson said the Fort Worth police chief already accepted the job.
Fitzgerald backed away from his pursuit of the commissioner job to focus on his son as he undergoes brain surgery, said both the Fort Worth police chief and the Baltimore mayor in statements released late Monday morning.
“After a lengthy discussion with Chief Joel Fitzgerald, I respect his decision to withdraw his candidacy for Baltimore Police Commissioner in order to devote his full attention to his son who is now facing a second brain surgery tomorrow to remove a mass that was discovered late last week," said Mayor Catherine Pugh in the statement.
Fitzgerald also released a statement soon after:
"The decision to withdraw from the Baltimore process came down to this, I reflected upon the tremendous outpouring of heartfelt support I received here in Fort Worth over the last few months. Our community communicated this to me, even before this medical emergency occurred with my son, but is was reinforced thereafter knowing there was a possibility I could leave. Their support never wavered, and may have intensified. There is literally nowhere I go in this city of almost 900,000 residents where someone doesn’t approach me to say first, 'Hey Chief, your Eagles stink, and by the way, you’re still needed and loved here in Fort Worth.' I will now focus on my child’s next bout of brain surgery, and being home with family, my Fort Worth Police Department family...and this awesome community."
In November, Pugh's press secretary said Fitzgerald accepted the police commissioner job, which he was expected to start shortly after Thanksgiving. However, early Monday morning, Fort Worth police announced the chief's decision to withdraw his name from consideration on their official Twitter account.
While Pugh said Fitzgerald made the decision to focus on his son's surgery, the Fort Worth police chief faced criticism in the days before the announcement.
In a statement released Saturday, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund asked Pugh to withdraw her nomination of Fitzgerald.
Among reasons the NAACP listed for their concerns over his nomination was Fort Worth's 8.1 percent increase in crimes against persons from 2016 to 2017, and the 9.2. percent increase in murders, according to the police department's annual report.
They also questioned Fitzgerald's "experience ... holding officers accountable for the excessive use of force."
"Baltimore’s next police commissioner must 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," the NAACP said in the statement.
The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that Fitzgerald overstated "some of his achievements since becoming police chief in Fort Worth, Texas, in October 2015."
"In one case, he misrepresents his role in the Fort Worth Police Department’s body camera program," the report says. "In another, he paints a rosier picture of his results in bringing down crime than FBI data reflects. And Fitzgerald credits himself with improving reporting on racial profiling, even though a new Texas law required the efforts."
Pugh said as the search for a commissioner continues, Gary Tuggle will continue to serve as Baltimore's interim commissioner.