Dr. Joel Fitzgerald, Sr., a 28-year law enforcement veteran became the City of Waterloo, Iowa-Chief of Police while our country was embroiled in the throes of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic and national protests calling for police reforms because of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For a plethora of reasons, we will likely remember 2020 as one of the most difficult yet transformative years faced by those serving in the modern policing profession. Fitzgerald hopes to be someone remembered for his efforts to hold this community together during a tense and emotionally charged time.
Dr. Fitzgerald has an exemplary record of integrity that has facilitated his success in working among diverse populations, innovation, and crime abatement. As the first African American chief of police in four municipalities, he earned a reputation as a reformer who is no stranger to facing contemporary major policing challenges.
Fitzgerald (49) was born in SW Philadelphia, PA in 1971, and was educated at the historic Overbrook High School. He attended Villanova University, where he graduated with a Baccalaureate Degree (B.A.) Liberal Arts, continued his education at Eastern University, where he earned his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree, and in 2013, earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Administration at Northcentral University.
Fitzgerald joined the City of Philadelphia Police Department in 1992, and served in various ranks before his 2009 selection to serve as Chief of Police in Missouri City, TX. In December 2013, he returned to PA, becoming Chief of Police in the City of Allentown, where he faithfully served until 2015.
From 2015-2019, Dr. Fitzgerald served as Chief of Police of the Fort Worth, TX Police Department, leading over 2,200 employees in the 13th largest agency in the U.S. Under his command, FWPD became the largest state accredited (recognized) department in TX and became one of six pilot cities examining policies, and developing evidence through research to reduce implicit bias, enhance procedural justice, and promote racial reconciliation, the National Initiative for Building Community, Truth & Justice (NI).
In 2020, Dr. Fitzgerald became the Chief Deputy of the City/County of Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office, the largest Sheriff’s Office in the Commonwealth of PA.
While serving in that capacity, he reorganized department operations, administration, training, professional standards, and software systems, until his selection
and appointment as Waterloo, Iowa Chief of Police in June 2020.
In each position, Joel’s strong leadership traits were instrumental in those agencies becoming the standard for jurisdictions seeking to promote community
problem solving, the use of relational policing, and enacting evidence-based strategies to abate crime. Fitzgerald was the catalyst organizational culture changes
that now prefer to invest heavily in enhancement of procedural justice, sanctity of life, and other tenets of 21st Century Policing over reactionary models.
Dr. Fitzgerald has been a member of the Major Cities Chiefs’ Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, the International Association of Chiefs of Police,
NAACP, and is a graduate of the Harvard University Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program. He completed the FBI National Academy-National
Executive Institute, FBI-National Academy-LEEDS Program, DEA (DUCA), Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, and the Police Executive
Research Forum (PERF). He is a member of the FBI LEEDA Executive Board, earned the prestigious FBI LEEDA Trilogy award.
Joel and his wife, Pauline (a Homicide Investigator-Tarrant County, Texas Criminal District Attorney’s Office, and former Philadelphia Police Officer), have three children,
one who proudly serves in law enforcement, and five beautiful grandchildren.