T.J. Smith, a fixture of newscasts as the public face of Baltimore police, resigned Wednesday.
In a post on his website, Smith thanked Kevin Davis, the commissioner who hired him, and the mayors, commissioners, police officials and citizens he's worked with in his tenure.
"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," Smith wrote. "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."
Smith was brought to Baltimore as part of a personnel swap with Anne Arundel County, where Davis was the former police chief. Smith took control of the department's public affairs just months after the death of Freddie Gray and the unrest that followed. His contract runs through the end of December, and Anne Arundel County paid most of his salary as part of the swap.
"This wasn't a bitter end," he told Brett Hollander. "It was just the time."
He did not say in the post why he is leaving the department, and didn't say what he planned to do next. However, he told Hollander that he was weary of internal mudslinging. Most recently, that included rumor-mongering around the exit of a high-ranking commander after an argument with Jim Gillis, Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle's chief of staff.
"It was a personal decision that T.J. Smith made. T.J.'s made a lot of contributions to this department over the years so we wish him well," Tuggle said.
"Mayor Pugh wishes him well," a city spokesman said in a statement.
Smith leaves on his own terms, unlike several predecessors, but without his next plans set in stone.
"What's next is a nap, that's the first thing," he joked. "I really haven't been off since I've been with Baltimore... but whatever I do, I want to stay connected with the people in Baltimore, because I know the promise this city has."
The news comes as Mayor Catherine Pugh plans to select a new police commissioner.
"That person should have the ability to select their own team and get the professionals they need to move their agenda forward," Smith said. "We all want a safer city and a better city and we don't want to hear about this behind the scenes nonsense."
Smith, a Baltimore native was known for being a straight talker on violent crime, and didn't shy away from speaking his mind when crimes were particularly vicious or involved particularly vulnerable victims. While in his post with Baltimore police, Smith's own family was touched by the city's spike in homicides. His brother, Dionay Smith, was shot and killed last July, and when he spoke to the media, it was as much as a family member as a police spokesman.
Smith got reports from all of the city's precincts. On one fateful Sunday, as he began a 10-day vacation, one of those reports carried his brother's name.
"And I remember, when I called, I was hoping he'd answer because even what I was doing, even the fear it was him, I was going to wherever he was to hug him," Smith said. "I didn't get the chance to do this, but I was able to do all the identification stuff for my family, so they didn't have to."
He said he hoped his brother's death would spur action.
"Enough with the hashtags and the RIPs and the balloons and the T-shirts. Let's stop," Smith said. "It's up to all of us, especially all the guys on the street, to say enough is enough."
A Baltimore jury last month convicted a man of first-degree murder in Dionay Smith's death.
Smith said he's optimistic that, under the next police commissioner, the violent crime situation in Baltimore will only improve.
"You, me and everyone else out there don't really care who's in place," Smith said. "We just want a safe city to go home to at night."