By Betsy Dolan
Amid the good natured ribbing about the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles there were a few tears and more than a few words of praise for the man who has led Missouri City’s police force for the past 4 1/2 years.
Chief Joel Fitzgerald, 42, who is leaving the Show Me City to become the first minority police chief in Allentown, Pennsylvania, was honored at the December 2 city council meeting.
“He transformed the police department bringing in all kinds of new ideas”, Owen said. “He is recognized nationwide for the things he has accomplished in Missouri City”.
Fitzgerald is credited with numerous innovations to the city’s police department including establishing monthly criminal investigation meetings with area law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes; creating the department’s first mini-station on Texas Parkway; leading the transition to a more community oriented way of policing and pioneering the “I choose to follow the rules” program in area elementary schools that helps steer kids away from gangs and drugs.
“Chief Fitzgerald motivated and pushed the department to become one of the premiere departments in the nation”, said Edward Broussard, Missouri City’s City Manager. “There is a reason why we’re known as one of the safest cities in the state”.
Missouri City ranked 20th in the Congressional Quarterly’s list of the top 50 safest cities in America this year. According to federal crime reports, violent crime in Missouri City dropped from 123 in 2009, the year that Fitzgerald was hired, to 86 in 2012. Property crime reports dropped from 1,302 to 879. Missouri City hasn’t had a murder since 2010, and has had 10 total in the past seven years.
Broussard also praised Fitzgerald for his efforts in building trust within the community and encouraging his officers to get to know residents by name.
Doc Holliday, Community Liason for Congressman Al Green, presented Fitzgerald with a flag that had flown over the capital in Washington D.C. Fort Bend District Attorney John Healey, Stafford Police Chief B.R. Krahn and State Representative Ron Reynolds all had words of praise for the outgoing chief.
“He is a great leader and a great communicator”, Reynolds said of Fitzgerald. “The only bad thing I can say about him is that he is an Eagles fan”.
Fitzgerald, spent 18 years with the Philadelphia Police Department before being hired by Missouri City in 2009.
Assistant Police Chief Mike Berezin will be the interim police chief.
“Just as supportive as you have been of me, please be just as supportive to whoever takes my place”, Fitzgerald said. “This has been a good learning experience for me and I will always remember my time in Missouri City”.