T. J. Smith, the Baltimore Police Department’s chief spokesman and the department’s public face during the upheaval of the past few years, beginning with the Freddie Gray riots, has resigned.

Smith cited an unstable environment — with “mudslinging” within the department and “political turmoil” all around it — as the driving force behind his decision, according to a report in The Sun.

“There’s a lot of work left to be done in Baltimore, but I have a good name and a good reputation, and with everything that’s gone on, and with some of the nasty mudslinging that’s taken place, I just don’t want to continue being a part of it,” he told The Sun.

Smith’s work as a spokesman was notable in that he helped to humanize the Department, as he often referred to perpetrators as “cowards” and injected a personal touch and commentary that resonated with residents. Smith’s younger brother Dion was among the murder victims, shot in Dion’s Baltimore apartment in July 2017, creating an even deeper connection with the community that saw him on TV nearly every day.

In The Sun interview, Smith mentioned a recent argument between a high-ranking commander, Col. Perry Standfield, and Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle‘s chief of staff, Jim Gillis, wherein Standfield slammed a chair into a wall. The incident became public after Standfield quit under threat of being fired, and Smith said “misinformation” about the incident was spread — including by local political leaders he did not name — in a way that bothered him and made him feel like he could be unjustly sullied himself if he stayed in the department any longer.

Smith is a good friend and supporter of local communicators. In recent years he led social media workshops for the Maryland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, was emcee of PRSA Maryland’s “Best in Maryland” awards ceremony in 2017 and was a featured keynote speaker during the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit.

Smith posted a lengthy public goodbye on his personal Facebook page that began:

Dear Baltimore, Thank You!

It’s time. Goodbye for now and thank you for letting me be me.

To change a city, you have to change the city.

I love this town. I get homesick whenever I’m away. And despite its flaws, this city possesses great beauty, is rich in history, and exudes promise. However, the last few years have cast a spotlight on our city’s urban, gritty landscape; from scandals, corruption, murders, riots, and more. Through it all, I walk all over the city and people approach me offering ideas, prayer, and hope. That’s Baltimore, my Baltimore, a deeply resilient town.

As I said when I arrived in Baltimore, and I’ll say the same as I leave, “I’m not just a spokesperson, I’m a community advocate.” As I say goodbye, for now, it has truly been my honor and privilege to serve with the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department and the citizens of the city of Baltimore.

The post concluded with: “What’s next you ask? Hmmm, consulting, teaching, media stuff, and maybe, just maybe a book and politics! One way or another, I’m available to speak and work with you! I’m excited to see what God has in store for me!!”

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