Baltimore City Council delegation heads home from Texas trip, plans vetting report on police commissioner nominee

A group of Baltimore City Council members departed Fort Worth on Tuesday after hearing from leaders in the Texas city about police commissioner nominee Joel Fitzgerald, but said they won’t share any conclusions until the new year.

Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the four council members met with 40 people over the course of 20 hours. He promised to issue in January a written report with a full accounting of the meetings.

“The members of the delegation and I will spend time digesting the information we gathered and refrain from public comment until the report is published,” Young said in a statement.

The council president’s office cast the trip as part of an unprecedented effort to vet Fitzgerald. But it’s not clear what the council members heard and how it might factor into their decision making. For instance, Young’s office declined to say Tuesday who the group met with.

Fitzgerald needs the backing of a majority of the Baltimore City Council and has said he will continue to serve as chief of police in Fort Worth until it holds a final vote. That won’t be until mid-January at the earliest.

Councilman Brandon Scott, the chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the trip was worthwhile. He said the information he gathered would only be part of his decision-making process.

“My decision will also be impacted by Dr. Fitzgerald’s response to my questions, information provided in the background research done by the administration and, most importantly, the will of the citizens of Baltimore,” Scott said in a statement.

Council Vice President Sharon Middleton and Executive Appointments Chairman Robert Stokes, as well as two of Young’s aides, also made the trip.

A spokeswoman for the Fort Worth City Council said some of its members met with the delegation but she had no details about the discussions.

Manny Ramirez, the head of the Fort Worth police officers’ union, said he and his board members met with the group Tuesday for about two hours. Ramirez said he got the impression the council members were taking a hard look at Fitzgerald.

“They asked some tough questions about if we believed he’s ready to go up there to a bigger city with a higher crime rate,” he said.

Baltimore has a larger police department and is far more violent than Fort Worth, but Ramirez said he thought Fitzgerald was ready for the challenge. Ramirez cited Fitzgerald’s experience as an officer in Philadelphia and reforms he has implemented in Fort Worth.

After meeting the council members and previously talking to a group from the Baltimore police union, Ramirez said he believed Baltimore’s “last four commissioners have not been any where near what Joel is.”

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