He still needs to get confirmed by Baltimore’s City Council. But Michael Harrison has already established some Baltimore credibility: He eats crabs, and he’s seen “The Wire.”
The outgoing New Orleans police superintendent, whom Mayor Catherine Pugh this week named as Baltimore’s next police commissioner, appeared on New Orleans’ “Good Morning Show with Oliver Thomas” on Wednesday.
Harrison has been a regular guest on Thomas’ show for the four years he has led the department. “We’re really going to miss you,” Thomas told him Wednesday, calling him “the people’s chief.”
Also appearing on the segment was New Orleans-based actor Wendell Pierce, who played detective Bunk Moreland in the “The Wire.” Pierce offered to introduce Harrison to police officers in Baltimore, including the detective who inspired his character on the HBO series. He called Baltimore and New Orleans “sister cities,” saying they share many similarities, including culinary preferences.
“They like crabs like we do,” Pierce told Harrison. “They season them on the outside. You can show them how to boil ’em.”
Harrison laughed and said: “They can take one look at me and tell I’m not a stranger to eating crabs.”
Harrison said he would miss New Orleans but looked forward to the chance to contribute in Baltimore. He acknowledged the need to simultaneously reduce violent crime and reform the police department, a “heavy lift.” But he touted his own success in doing that in Louisiana, and recalled how in 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice had called the New Orleans police department the most troubled in the nation.
“Now a troubled department is hiring talent from the former most troubled department,” Harrison said.
Thomas asked Harrison why — of all the cities where he has been sought (some really nice cities, some on beaches) — he chose Baltimore for his next move.
Harrison pointed out that although he had been invited to compete for jobs in other cities, the call from Baltimore came as an outright job offer. “I got a call saying, ‘The city wants you, the city needs you,’ ” Harrison said.
The Baltimore Sun reported a month ago that Harrison was chosen as the top candidate among six finalists for the commissioner position by a panel of advisers to Pugh at a police executive conference in Orlando, Fla., in October.
In comments reported by the Louisiana newspaper The Advocate, Harrison said he had seen “The Wire,” but wouldn’t be using it for policing tips.
"That was TV, and I’m going into reality," he said. "I want to see [Baltimore] for what it is. I can only fix what it is."