Say what you will about Baltimore, but don’t omit that it is a city in severe crisis. Crime, drug traffic and, in particular, shootings, violence and homicides are destroying this city.
This is not to say that there are not systemic causes of these problems, but, short-term redemption, if it comes, will be delivered in large part by the police department. For this to happen, the department needs a capable leader who will garner support by building trust and will stay in the fight for the long term.
Recently, Mayor Catherine Pugh announced her choice for a new leader of the Baltimore Police Department. Two requirements for this position should come as no shock to anyone. First, after 10 commissioners since 1989, and three commissioners in 2018, her candidate needs to see the job done; second, the candidate and the mayor must be transparent if they want the police department and the population to get on board and support the candidate. Lack of trust and either’s support will result in failure.
Putting aside the concern that the commissioner candidate, Joel Fitzgerald, has served as chief in two police forces over the past three years, the fact that both he and the city refuse to release the results of his city-ordered background check is of massive concern. Worse yet is the flippant response of Chief Fitzgerald to a question at the recent press conference at City Hall in which he oddly referred to himself in the third person. He was addressing a reporter who asked that his background check completed by the mayor’s office be released, including to members of the City Council who say they have not been given the report yet are supposed to vote on his appointment.
The candidate retorted, “There is nothing they can’t find through any means. By way of the website. That’s not out there about Joel Fitzgerald and how I do business. That information is readily accessible, so I’m going to allow them to do their research.” Councilman Zeke Cohen asked Fitzgerald for the “administration’s vetting process;” he was was turned down and told he could request it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Pardon us for saying this approach reeks of arrogance and is contemptuous of the press as well as the people Fitzgerald is applying to serve. Or maybe it is intended to hide something he and the city don’t want anyone to see? The chief is applying for the position of commissioner of our city’s police department; he needs to, and should want to, be open and transparent in order to convince the department, the citizens and the city that he is worthy of trust and that he is the right person for the job. If he can’t figure this out by himself, the mayor should set him straight, since the city has taken the position it can’t release the report but that he can.
Nothing we have seen so far makes the case for trust, and Baltimore can’t afford one more massive failure. Chief Fitzgerald must provide the requested information to allow him to be evaluated for this position.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
John Bainbridge Jr.
Wesley D. Blakeslee
Arthur F. Fergenson
C. William Michaels
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
L. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the Board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the Bench, Bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, majority views and signed rebuttals will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.