Two members of the Baltimore City Council and a pair of aides arrived Thursday in New Orleans to look into how well the mayor’s choice to become police commissioner did as chief there.
Mayor Catherine Pugh selected Michael Harrison, who then retired as the New Orleans police superintendent, to lead Baltimore police. In his hometown, Harrison battled violent crime and the challenges of imposing civil rights reforms — experience Pugh hopes will stand him in good stead in Baltimore.
Councilmembers Robert Stokes and Kristerfer Burnett, the chairman and vice chairman of the executive appointments committee, are meeting with New Orleans clergy, activists, business leaders, law enforcement officials and politicians.
They are expected to document the conversations they have and produce a report for their colleagues and the public.
The council gets a say on Pugh’s choice. The mayor is expected to formally nominate him in March, setting up hearings and a vote later that month.
The council delegation’s visit follows one to vet Pugh’s previous selection, Fort Worth, Texas, chief Joel Fitzgerald. That trip resulted in a 216-page report that underscored how divided members of the Fort Worth community were over Fitzgerald. He withdrew as the nominee after one of his sons suffered a medical emergency.
While council leaders have promised to scrutinize Harrison as closely as Fitzgerald, the mayor’s team has been working to ensure her new selection has a smoother confirmation process.
Harrison plans to start Feb. 11 as acting commissioner and meet with community members in each of the city’s nine police districts before the formal confirmation process begins. Fitzgerald remained in Texas and had met few people in Baltimore, even as hearings on his nomination began.
On Thursday, the Greater Baltimore Committee business group announced it would hold a $50-per-head breakfast for its members with Harrison. The event is scheduled for Feb. 25.