Baltimore police commissioner nominee's resume also mischaracterizes parts of tenure as Allentown police chief
By Emily Opilo
Of The Morning Call|
Jan 04, 2019 | 11:25 AM
Joel Fitzgerald the police commissioner in Forth Worth, Texas is the candidate chosen by Mayor Catherine Pugh as a possible police commissioner for Baltimore.
In addition to overstating some of his achievements as Fort Worth police chief, the resume of Baltimore police commissioner candidate Joel Fitzgerald mischaracterizes aspects of his time leading the Allentown, Pa., department.
Fitzgerald was police chief in Allentown from December 2013 until October 2015. Of his time there, he mischaracterized the timing of when the city’s body camera program was implemented and his role in the accreditation process. Fitzgerald’s resume also states that he expanded the city’s 911 dispatch center during a period when the number of dispatchers was reduced.
Here’s how the claims on his resume stack up with his record as police chief in Allentown.
Claim: “Managing and expanding the capacity of the police & fire 911 Dispatch Operations Center” and “Expanding the city-wide camera system project by 25%, to include license plate recognition (LPR) technology:”
Allentown’s 911 Center, funded in part by the state, is under the umbrella of the Allentown Police Department, but is managed on a day-to-day basis by a communications superintendent. During Fitzgerald’s tenure, expenditures for the center shrank by $305,000. The number of dispatchers was reduced from 24 to 22, but several leadership positions were also reorganized.
Former Allentown Assistant Chief Dan Warg worked as the department’s liaison to the 911 Center just before Fitzgerald’s arrival, and said the physical 911 facility did not expand during Fitzgerald’s tenure.
The city’s expansion of its surveillance camera network, which was underway prior to Fitzgerald’s arrival, continued while he was chief, Warg said. In May 2013, the city had 120 cameras. By the time of his departure, the city had 151 – about a 25 percent increase. Many of the new cameras were funded by a local developer as the city prepared to open a downtown arena.
Allentown Councilman Daryl Hendricks, who retired as a police captain shortly before Fitzgerald was hired, said the city department used license plate recognition technology prior to the chief’s arrival.
Claim: “Initiating the first active Body Camera program in Pennsylvania:”
Allentown City Council approved the first funding for cameras as part of the 2015 budget, but the city was not the first in the state or even the region to do so. In 2014, Richland Township in Bucks County had already put the cameras into action, and by mid-2015, Lehigh University’s police force was using body cameras.
Allentown didn’t deploy cameras to each officer until November 2017, when Chief Glen Dorney was at the helm of the department. By the end of Fitzgerald’s tenure, a group of about 10 officers was testing the cameras as part of a pilot program.
Claim: “Initiating LGBT Liaison(s), annual Use of Force and Cultural Sensitivity Training:”
Warg said annual use of force training is mandated by Pennsylvania for all law enforcement agencies and has been for decades. Currently, Allentown Police receive the training twice a year.
Hendricks, on the force 38 years, said cultural sensitivity training was already offered for officers prior to Fitzgerald’s tenure.
Fitzgerald did establish an LGBT liaison for the department.
Claim: “Establishing the agency’s first partnership with HIDTA and collocation agreements with Federal Agencies:”
The federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program was created in 1988 to improve cooperation among government and law enforcement agencies and reduce drug trafficking.
Warg noted that Fitzgerald had experience in Philadelphia, which is the only county in Pennsylvania designed as a HIDTA municipality. That certification was due to the high intensity of drug production and distribution in Philadelphia County, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website.
But the city’s work with HIDTA predated Fitzgerald, Warg said. Hendricks said he worked regularly with HIDTA officials during when he served in the city police department’s vice unit.
Claim: “Reorganizing the department by bringing the agency into compliance with PA ‘Recognition Standards’ and initiating the process of national CALEA accreditation”:
Allentown’s Police Department has been accredited by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission since 2006. Allentown Police officials explored the idea of pursuing federal accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) during Warg’s tenure, but it was deemed too expensive, he said.
Allentown is not pursing such accreditation.
Baltimore Sun reporter Ian Duncan contributed to this article.