The day after being named Alexandria's new chief of police, David Baker showed the kind of leader he will be. Baker announced a crackdown on drunk drivers. Over the weekend, officers made 99 traffic stops, conducted 13 sobriety tests, and arrested five motorists for driving while intoxicated. His department also issued 43 summonses for other violations and placed three other criminal charges.
The day before Baker led the crackdown, he stood in the City Council chambers where City Manager Jim Hartmann promoted Baker to be the city’s next chief of police. Former Police Chief Charles Samarra hired Baker, who had been deputy chief, in 1991 and put him in charge of several technological and administrative projects over the past 15 years. Speaking at a lectern emblazoned with the city’s seal, Hartmann praised Samarra’s leadership.
“He left very large shoes to fill,” Hartmann said. “But Chief Baker has the background, the experience and a wide range of abilities that will enable him to be an outstanding police chief for the City of Alexandria in the 21st century.”
Baker took the stage to accept his new position. He praised the Alexandria Police Department, which he joined after retiring from the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department as a captain. He said that although Samarra did an outstanding job reducing the crime rate, the city has challenges ahead: drug use, youth violence and gun crimes. Baker said that he would strive to lead the department with a sense of accountability to the citizens and participation with the community.
“Police departments across the country continue to face enormous challenges, whether it be controlling and reducing crime, improving the quality of life in neighborhoods, the ever present uncertainty of terrorism, drugs, youth violence, the presence and availability of guns or identifying and eliminating any number of economic and social issues that affect crime rates in any community,” Baker said, reading from a prepared text. “We recognize and accept those challenges, and my focus will be to improve and enhance our analytical and strategic capabilities so that our policing strategies, problem-solving capabilities and deployment decisions are fact-based, unified, consistent and capable of responding aggressively and effectively to new or existing crime and quality of life issues.”
Mayor Bill Euille spoke next, congratulating Baker on his new position at the top of the public-safety hierarchy in Alexandria. He reminded those in attendance that the city manager made the final decision on whom to hire, although he said he agreed with the decision when Hartmann told him of Baker’s selection. Euille also took the opportunity to offer some advice to the new police chief.
“You are the chief not for the city but for the citizens,” Euille said. “We expect to see some enhanced visibility.”
Sheriff Dana Lawhorne said that he expected Baker to keep a highly visible presence, adding that he has worked with Baker for 15 years. He said that Alexandria residents can expect a very close working relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department.
“When he first came on, he was from the outside. So there was some suspicion,” said Lawhorne, who was a police detective when Baker became deputy chief in 1991. “But he worked hard and produced results.”
<b>BAKER’S CAREER</b> in law enforcement began September 1970, when he took a position as a patrol officer in the eleventh precinct of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. He responded to calls in uniform and eventually took a position as an undercover agent. In November 1977, he was promoted to patrol sergeant in the field operations bureau. At this time, he took his first supervisory role overseeing the activities of 10 patrol officers and conducting training exercises.
In the 1980s, Baker worked his way up the chain at the department — directing crime analysis, serving on transition teams, writing operational procedures and managing the publication of all department procedures. Ultimately, he was promoted to captain in 1985 and put in charge of 78 officers, 25 cadets and five civilian employees. He retired from the Washington police force in 1991, taking a position with newly installed Alexandria Chief Samarra. City officials say that Baker has been Samarra’s right-hand man for years, implementing technological improvements to the force and fine tuning the police bureaucracy into an efficient crime-fighting machine.
“At the time when Samarra came onboard, there was a lot of divisiveness in the police department,” said Deputy City Manager Michele Evans. “Baker was brought in as part of an effort to develop a department that could work together.”
Recent crime statistics show the success that Baker and Samarra have been able to accomplish. The Alexandria Police Department’s annual report for 2005 showed a 10 percent decrease in “Part 1” crimes over the last year — a category that includes homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny. Property crime decrease 10 percent in the last year, and violent crime was down by 2 percent. Baker said that he wants to continue Samarra’s success while finding new ways for improving the department.
“We will make sure that when we consider changes to technology, practices, procedures, equipment, policing and problem solving strategies or any number of things that make up a successful organization, that we do so with a view that every change improves and moves the capabilities of our organization forward,” Baker said. “Because at the end of the day, we are responsible for meeting the goals of our core mission — crime reduction, creating and maintaining safe communities, improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods and partnering with our communities to enhance relationships build on effective communications, mutual trust and respect.”