Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle has told Mayor Catherine Pugh that he wants the top job permanently, he confirmed Thursday.
Tuggle, 54, was elevated from deputy police commissioner to acting and then interim commissioner earlier this month after former Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was suspended by Pugh and then resigned after he was charged with three federal misdemeanors of failing to file federal tax returns.
Tuggle said he could not comment otherwise .
Police spokesman T.J. Smith said Thursday that when Tuggle took the job as deputy police commissioner in March, “he knew that at any moment he could be in the role” of commissioner, and that now he is indeed interested in the top position.
“At this time,” Smith added, “he is concentrating on the day-to-day operations of the Police Department and he will respect whatever decision the Mayor makes that he knows will be in the best interest of the agency and city.”
Tuggle had declined previously to say whether he wanted the top job permanently, in part because he had yet to discuss it with his family.
James Bentley, a spokesman for Pugh, said the mayor’s office did not have any comment Thursday on Tuggle’s interest in the job or the national search she promised to conduct to find De Sousa’s permanent replacement.
Pugh has provided very few details about what the search would entail or how it will be conducted. She has said she would consider both internal and external candidates. She has provided no information about a timeline, format or estimated cost for the search.
Lester Davis, a spokesman for City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said that Young is “looking forward to the national search,” in which Tuggle “will be one of many candidates from around the country for what is still a very desirable position.”
Experts in such searches said they are generally conducted by firms with experience in the field and knowledge of the nation’s existing talent pool of top police officials. They said that those firms find candidates who meet criteria set out by city leaders, and that Pugh and other Baltimore officials will have to determine what their priorities are for a leader before casting their net for candidates.
The last national search for a police commissioner was conducted under former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who hired Anthony Batts from California. When Rawlings-Blake fired Batts after the 2015 riots and amid high levels of violence, she appointed then-Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis to lead the department.
Davis was fired by Pugh in January, with Pugh citing stubbornly high violence as the reason and appointing De Sousa, then a deputy commissioner, to the position.
Tuggle, a native of East Baltimore, served as a Baltimore police officer in the 1980s, then went to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, where he spent the rest of his career — until his return to the Police Department as a deputy commissioner in March.
When asked two weeks ago if he wanted the commissioner job permanently, Tuggle said he hadn’t discussed it with his wife yet.
“What I want to see is what has been mandated by the mayor — and that is that we fix the problems that exist. And I’m certainly willing to do that,” he said at the time.
After various assignments within the DEA, Tuggle returned to Baltimore in 2013 to lead the agency’s Baltimore office. He later led the Philadelphia office, where he was in charge of about 320 personnel in half a dozen offices across Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Baltimore Police Department has thousands of employees.
Tuggle is a married father of four who lives in Prince George’s County. Were he to win the commissioner job permanently, he would be required to live in the city.
When he took over from De Sousa, Tuggle said he believed in the policing strategy in place and would continue it.
“We’ve got a solid strategy. My responsibility now is to communicate it clearly to the troops, communicate it often, and give them the support that they need,” he said at the time. “The crime fight is multifaceted, and it includes things like enhanced community engagement and proactive community policing. And part of that is ensuring that we improve the perception of the Police Department and improve the morale within the Police Department.”
City Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the public safety committee, said anyone with Tuggle’s experience who wants to apply for the commissioner job should do so. But he also reiterated that he wants a “board of commissioners” controlling the department, not a single commissioner, which would require consideration of several candidates.