FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – After months of speculation that the police chief in Fort Worth was leaving the city to be police commissioner in Baltimore, officials with the department made an announcement to the contrary Monday.
Department officials sent a tweet confirming that Chief Joel Fitzgerald withdrew his name from consideration for the position in Maryland.
Fitzgerald was scheduled to be in Baltimore to attend a public hearing for his nomination, but canceled the appearance due to a medical emergency involving his son.
Hours after the FWPD tweet Chief Fitzgerald issued a statement that said —
“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 (sic) 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, you 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.”
“We just need to let the situation with his family play out,” said Fort Worth City Manger David Cooke. “That’s just the respectful thing to do. And then just sit down and make sure, want to make sure there’s a commitment to fort worth for a long tenure.”
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Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh later also issued a statement explaining that Chief Fitzgerald’s son illness was the reason for the withdrawal.
In the statement and posts on social media Pugh said, “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.”
Fitzgerald had been selected as police commissioner by Mayor Pugh in November of 2018 and last month a four-person delegation of Baltimore city council members spent 20 hours over two days in Fort Worth vetting Fitzgerald.
The public hearing which Fitzgerald was unable to attend, but was still held, was expected to have the Chief in the hot seat, answering questions from the city council — some of which were expected to center around the recent call from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) for the Mayor Pugh to withdraw her nomination of Fitzgerald.
The LDF hand delivered a statement to Baltimore officials that said, in part —
“The multiple and serious questions raised about Dr. Fitzgerald’s record – many of which go to the veracity of representations he has made about his record – must be addressed promptly and thoroughly.”