Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a longtime law enforcement presence in Baltimore who currently is a top commander and spokeswoman in the Baltimore sheriff’s office, has submitted her name to be Baltimore’s first female police commissioner.
Tapp-Harper, who spent 26 years in the Baltimore Police Department before retiring in 2014 at the rank of major to join the sheriff’s office, confirmed she offered her candidacy to Mayor Catherine Pugh this week, but otherwise declined to comment.
A Baltimore native, Tapp-Harper currently commands the domestic violence unit of the sheriff’s office. During her time in the Police Department, she held multiple command positions, including commander of the Northern District and commander of the special victims unit, which handles sexual assaults and other domestic violence cases. She also spent time as a police spokeswoman.
Tapp-Harper is the second person to confirm interest in the commissioner position, after interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle.
Tuggle took over the department last month after former-Commissioner Darryl De Sousa was suspended and then resigned after being federally charged with willfully failing to file federal tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015. De Sousa has admitted to not filing his returns, but said he is working to do so.
Tuggle, 54, also a Baltimore native, confirmed last week that he had told Pugh he wants the permanent job, but otherwise declined to comment. Tuggle, a Baltimore cop in the 1980s, spent most of his career in leadership positions within the federal Drug Enforcement Administration before returning to the Police Department in March as a deputy commissioner under De Sousa.
Tapp-Harper, 50, has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Coppin State University, and a master’s degree in applied behavioral science from Johns Hopkins University.
The Baltimore Sun asked Tapp-Harper about her candidacy after social media posts touting her for the position began appearing online, including from her son.
In an interview, Xavier Harper, 27, said he threw his mother’s name out for the job of top cop because he believes she would thrive in the position and help the department get back on its feet after a series of scandals.
“Over 30 years now, she has given back to the city and the community of Baltimore,” he said. “She worked in patrol for a long time, and I can go anywhere in Baltimore with her and she always sees people she knows.”
Harper said his mother would bring immediate credibility to the department, while benefiting from the respect she already has earned from many among the rank and file.
“She’s stable. My mother’s a very successful woman,” he said. “And I always describe her as a woman of virtue.”
Pugh said Wednesday that she was forming a seven-member committee to help her search for a new police commissioner. She’d previously said she would conduct a national search and consider candidates from inside and outside the department.
Pugh has provided no other details as to the search.
Asked about Tapp-Harper’s candidacy, James Bentley, a Pugh spokesman, said, “We are not going to comment on individuals that may surface during the process or who make known their interest to the public. Further details about the search committee and process will be forthcoming.”
The city has in the past conducted national searches with the help of search firms. The searches generally have been conducted in secret, with names of candidates withheld from the public.
Experts have said that, given the scandal around De Sousa’s charges and resignation, the next commissioner will need to have an unblemished record, and candidates with deep ties to the department — like Tapp-Harper — should expect to be questioned about their time in the department.