- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Alexandria Police Chief David P. Baker retired Tuesday after being arrested over the weekend on drunken-driving charges.

City Manager James K. Hartmann announced that Chief Baker had decided to retire, effective Friday. Deputy Chief Earl Cook has assumed Chief Baker’s duties.

“It is with a great deal of humility and remorse that I announce my retirement from the Alexandria Police Department,” Chief Baker said in statement to his officers. “Thank [you] for allowing me the privilege of serving with you. I could not have asked for a better, more capable or more compassionate group of public safety professionals to work with.”

Chief Baker’s attorney, Jim C. Clark, said he learned of his client’s decision to resign Tuesday morning via e-mail.

“It’s my understanding that he gave an awful lot of thought to this, and it finally became crystal clear to him that although he dearly wanted to try to engage in negotiations to retain his position, he finally came to the conclusion that to put the city through the process was not in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Mayor William D. Euille expressed his support for Chief Baker’s decision at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“We hope that this unfortunate incident will not eclipse the stellar service and commitment that he has shown to the city of Alexandria during his years of service,” he said. “Regretfully, this is a wise decision to allow the police department and the city to move forward.”

Chief Baker, 58, was arrested Saturday about 11 p.m. in Arlington County on a DUI charge while driving a city-issued, unmarked car. Officials said a Breathalyzer test indicated a 0.19 blood alcohol content - more than twice the legal limit in Virginia.

Chief Baker, who was appointed to the post in September 2006, had been with the department since 1991. He also had a 20-year career with the Metropolitan Police Department in the District.

Alexandria City Council members expressed their regret over the incident.

“Now that he has resigned, I just feel awful,” council member Rodella “Del” Pepper said. “Everybody is very sad. He had just a stellar record.”

Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley applauded Chief Baker’s decision.

“I think he’s made the right decision here, and it will enable us to move forward in terms of the police department and the city,” he said. “We won’t have this incident serving as a cloud over the city for the next few weeks.”

Mr. Donley was mayor from 1996 to 2003. He said that when Rebecca L. Perry, then-superintendent of schools, was arrested on a DUI charge in 2004, she was not able to regain credibility after she was allowed to return to her position.

“Her DUI conviction always overshadowed her positives,” he said.

Former Alexandria City Manager Vola Lawson, who served from 1985 to 2001, said she hopes Chief Baker can recover from the incident.

“David Baker was an outstanding police chief who had the support and respect of the community, the police force and of the city officials,” Ms. Lawson said. “My hope is that he’ll be remembered for that and not just for one unfortunate night.”

Mr. Donley agreed.

“I think the message here is that people make mistakes, and that people need to be responsible for their actions,” he said. “Chief Baker is being responsible for his actions. That actually sends a stronger message than anything else in this unfortunate incident.”

A pretrial conference in the case is set for Aug. 14.

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