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Michael Harrison makes first visit to Baltimore as Mayor Pugh's pick to head the city police department

Michael Harrison makes first visit to Baltimore as Mayor Pugh's pick to head the city police department
Outgoing New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison smiles as he is honored by the New Orleans City Council, in New Orleans on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (Gerald Herbert / AP)

Police commissioner nominee Michael Harrison is making his first visit to Baltimore this week since being named to the job, but the mayor's office says he has no official business scheduled and will instead spend the time preparing to move his life north from New Orleans.

Harrison retired Friday from the New Orleans Police Department, where he worked his way up the ranks to become chief in 2014.

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Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office says Harrison will begin Feb. 11 as acting commissioner in Baltimore.

Harrison faces a daunting to-do list. The department is in the early stages of implementing a civil rights decree, a process an independent monitor said last week will take longer than expected. At the same time, police are trying to drive down crime rates that have surged in recent years.

Pugh has said Harrison’s experience in New Orleans with a similar civil rights decree and taming some types of crime mean that he’s up to the job.

Harrison was chosen when Pugh’s previous selection, Fort Worth, Texas, Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, withdrew his candidacy after his son became seriously ill. Harrison had been considered during the discussions that led to Fitzgerald’s nomination.

Pugh’s office has said Harrison will hold public meetings in all nine of the city’s police districts before she formally nominates him to the City Council, but a schedule for those meetings has not been released and they are not planned for this week.

Two members of the City Council and two aides are scheduled to travel at the end of January to New Orleans to vet Harrison.

It’s not clear when Pugh will send Harrison’s nomination to the council. Once she does, council members have to hold a final vote within three meetings, or else his nomination is automatically approved.

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