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Now that Fitzgerald's out, what's wrong with keeping Tuggle as Baltimore Police commisioner?

Now that Fitzgerald's out, what's wrong with keeping Tuggle as Baltimore Police commisioner?
Gary Tuggle has been interim Baltimore police commissioner since May. He withdrew from consideration for the permanent job in October. (Baltimore Sun)

What’s wrong with Gary Tuggle? Monday morning, before we learned that Joel Fitzgerald had withdrawn from consideration as Baltimore’s next police commissioner — something I totally anticipated — I asked in an email to associates, members of the City Council and law enforcement sources: What’s wrong with Tuggle?

I know what the interim commissioner said in October — that, at age 54, he did not have the five to seven years he felt it would take to fix the Baltimore Police Department. I know he withdrew from consideration for the top job. I know that Brandon Scott, a member of City Council and vice chair of its public safety committee, said he did not believe Tuggle had sufficient support to get the council’s confirmation.

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But why?

What’s wrong with convincing Tuggle to take the job? Why won’t the council and mayor end this protracted hunt for a new commissioner from out of town and confirm a guy who grew up in Baltimore and has long experience in law enforcement at the local and federal levels?

As we have pointed out in the past: Tuggle, a former city police officer, joined the DEA in 1992 and rose through the ranks to leadership positions in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington. He served as assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s Baltimore office from 2013 to 2015. In that role, he oversaw its investigation into the looting of large amounts of drugs from pharmacies during the April 2015 unrest. He subsequently led the DEA’s Philadelphia office.

Tuggle is a graduate of Coppin State University and holds a business degree and master’s degree in government, with a concentration in national security studies, from the Johns Hopkins University.

Why would we let a guy like this go without further consideration or an effort to keep him?

Tuggle has been in place as interim commissioner since May, and if there have been any positive trends in crime reduction, they have been happening on his watch. If the last eight months had been a tryout for the job, we clearly would have said keep him.

It might be that Tuggle took a good look at the Baltimore Police Department and decided it was too big a mess to clean up. Maybe he wants to spend more time with his family. But pardon me for being skeptical that a man with Tuggle’s experience, at his age, would want to walk away from such a challenge. “The problems are a heavy lift,” he said in October, “but they’re not insurmountable.”

That sounds like a man who probably had a plan for fixing things.

To gain some stability in police leadership, why not go with the guy who’s been on the job since last spring?

Tuggle deserves reconsideration.

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